Sunday, May 20, 2007

246 security incidents since new online system for KY social workers was implemented

Security web system praised
Facilitates reports of threats, attacks
Kentucky Post, May 14, 2007.

Some Kentucky social workers are giving high marks for a computer-based system that allows workers to report threats, attacks and other security concerns.

The reporting system is among changes by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services since the slaying of Western Kentucky social service aide Boni Frederick last October.It enables social workers to report security concerns to Frankfort using a Web site that immediately e-mails the report to supervisors in Frankfort and in the field.

Previously, workers had to fill out a written report and fax or mail it to Frankfort.

Shenise Mack, a Jefferson County social worker, said the computer-based system is "going to be a way to help us." Jennifer Williams, who also works in Jefferson County, called it a sign of "tremendous progress."

Both said threats and attacks are an ongoing problem for social workers who often deal with hostile and angry adults who sometimes have mental-health or substance-abuse problems.

The new statewide system is resulting in swifter action against people who make threats, state officials said last week to a group of social workers and others studying safety.

Since the computer-based system began in November, 246 incidents have been reported, according to a report provided to the work group. In 33 of those cases, law enforcement or emergency medical officials were notified, it said.

The incidents included threats, assaults and disorderly conduct. Thirteen cases resulted in criminal charges.

Tom Emberton Jr., Kentucky's undersecretary for child and family services, said the system allows the state to act swiftly on such reports and compile a database to track trends and identify areas of particular concern.

Bruce Linder, who oversees the state's nine social service regions, said he gets the reports immediately by e-mail, which allows him to keep up with threats or attacks on social workers and make sure they are being handled properly by regional supervisors.

"It really has sped up the process," he said.

Joel Griffith, a regional supervisor, said he thinks workers are more likely to fill out the online reports -- partly because its faster and easier -- and also because, following Frederick's death, state officials repeatedly reminded workers to report security concerns.

As a result, Griffith believes more workers are reporting threats or other incidents they might previously have shrugged off as part of the job.

Meanwhile, the study group formed after Frederick's death will continue its work to come up with recommendations for lawmakers in 2008. It was the group's first meeting since the General Assembly in March passed legislation named after Frederick. The Boni law is aimed at upgrading safety and getting more frontline social workers on the job.

The group also discussed resources for social work, how to get more workers on the job, how to make offices safer, how to get faster criminal background checks on clients before they visit the home and ways to improve safety when workers make home visits.

Frederick was fatally beaten and stabbed in Henderson when she took an infant for what was to be a final home visit with his mother. The state recently had moved to sever the mother's parental rights and place the child for adoption. The mother and her boyfriend have been charged with Frederick's murder.