Right now, there are so many things that are hard to believe. It’s hard to believe we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s hard to believe how much things have changed how incredibly quickly. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been the Iowa Department of Human Services director for six months. What is not hard to believe is how our team at DHS has stepped up during this public health emergency. In my short time in the great state of Iowa, I have seen our team do incredible things. In honor of Public Service Recognition Week, I want to take a moment to talk about #TeamDHS and their unwavering dedication to those we serve.
The DHS mission is to help Iowans achieve healthy, safe, stable, and self-sufficient lives through the programs and services we provide. To accomplish this mission in typical times, our team wakes up every day to do difficult work. Our front-line staff often work holidays, evenings and weekends, sacrificing time with their own families to serve others. Our team members hear difficult stories, make tough decisions and assist families when they are at their most vulnerable. Their jobs are tough under normal circumstances — navigating a global pandemic has challenged everything we do, but the work has not stopped, because the work cannot stop. Iowans need us now more than ever.
COVID-19 impacts the way social workers support families. It impacts the way facilities support and protect the individuals we serve. It impacts the mental health of countless Iowans. It impacts the needs of Medicaid members and Iowans receiving other assistance.
As an agency impacted from top to bottom, I’m proud to share our collective response effort. The Medicaid and Adult, Children and Family Services (ACFS) teams kicked into high gear and set forth waivers that will truly help those most in need; ensuring access to medical care, food and economic assistance. Our income maintenance workers stand ready to assist those families who have questions or find themselves now in need of supports.
DHS went from an agency with no telecommute policy, to deploying more than 2,000 people to work from home. Our IT team stepped in to help disassemble and lift computers for those team members who couldn’t. Our fiscal team shifted paper approval processes to electronic streamlined processes to assist our new telecommute capabilities and continues to source supplies to meet our entire system’s personal protective equipment (PPE) need. We’ve even been able to help some of our partners out in the community obtain PPE. And many, many team members have stepped into new roles when asked because there was a need.
If this isn’t teamwork, I don’t know what is.
Many of our staff continue their work on the front line every day, despite these uncertain and unprecedented times. I know for many of them it is challenging, and our work and our lives are changing in ways we would never have imagined just weeks ago. We know there is more to come, and our response effort must pivot on a dime. So, to my team, thank you for stepping up and leaning in. And to my fellow Iowans, I ask you join me in thanking them, and all of our public servants and essential workforce during Public Service Recognition Week.
Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) is May 3-9, celebrated the first week of May since 1985 (beginning on the first Sunday of the month) to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.
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We’re asking individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by one of our team members, to reach out to them directly with an email or video message to thank them. Whether it’s a case worker, social worker, income maintenance worker or direct care staff, now more than ever they deserve to hear how they’re improving the lives of Iowans.
We’re hoping we can count on you to get the word out and support our public servants. Notes directly to DHS team members are a really impactful way to personally show gratitude. This week we’ll also be encouraging people to thank those in public service using the hashtags #PSRW and #TeamDHS. Stay tuned to our social media to see how you can help celebrate our public servants.
The bravery, grace, and sacrifice our team shows every day is what true public service looks like. From one very proud DHS team member to her more than 4,100 colleagues — thank you. Public service is indeed a noble calling.
Kelly Garcia is the director of the Iowa Department of Human Services.