Health and Human Services office relocating for remodel

03/30/2017

The county Health and Human Services satellite office in Point Reyes Station will start a temporary move to a new location on Monday as the county prepares for a major remodel of the Sixth Street facility.

During construction, estimated to last 18 months, the department will offer services at the Point Reyes Public Safety Building’s community meeting room. That space, which occupies the same building as the fire station and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office substation, will be open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The department will also rent office space on the second floor of the Livery Stable, but clients will be routed first to the community meeting room, which is A.D.A. accessible. 

County social workers and other staff provide a litany of services at the office, including evaluating people for eligibility for Medi-Cal; CalFresh; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC; in-home support services; child and family services; behavioral health services; adult protective services and more. The office, which serves roughly 300 people per month, also offers services for crime victims, said Patty Lyons, program manager for the West Marin branch. 

The county said in a statement last week that staff focusing on public assistance would relocate to the Public Safety Building first, while social services, behavioral health and public health staff would move to the Livery Stable at the end of April. 

Though the temporary offices represent a downsize, there will be “room for pretty much everyone to have a workstation… We’re going to manage,” Kari Beuerman, assistant director of Health and Human Services, said. There will be a makeshift lobby, a barrier for privacy and a noise machine in the community meeting room. “We’re just going to have to be creative in our scheduling,” she said. (Community groups will still be able to use the space in the evenings for meetings.)

The county says the Sixth Street building, which is over four decades old, needs seismic upgrades, improved disability access and privacy for clients. The latter is a particular concern given legal requirements from HIPPA and other sensitive information around income and health. 

Storage issues were also a concern; during a hearing on a coastal permit for the remodel last summer, a county employee said one computer server was located in a restroom.

“This remodel demonstrates our commitment to providing robust service,” Ms. Beuerman said. 

The project went out to bid last week, with an estimated cost of $2.5 million. Construction is expected to begin in May.

Some in the neighborhood protested the expansion plan after it was brought to the community’s attention in 2015, and even appealed the project to the Planning Commission last summer. Residents expressed concerns about community character, drainage, parking and even the necessity of a larger building. The county made some concessions to those concerns, most substantially by shrinking the proposed expansion by about 1,000 square feet. 

Current plans will expand the facility from 3,070 square feet to 5,240 square feet.

At a Board of Supervisors hearing last week regarding a resolution to support immigrants in Marin, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni said he received a letter of concern about relocating the satellite to the Public Safety Building, given its proximity to the sheriff’s substation.

“I did get an email yesterday from one of our support staff... They are worried that if we do not pass this resolution that some of their clients won’t come there, because there’s a sheriff station there. I think it exemplifies what the worries are and why we need to provide some security to our communities,” he said.

The resolution, which supervisors unanimously passed, seeks to assuage concerns by directing Health and Human Services “to review its confidentiality policies to better ensure that eligible individuals are not deterred from seeking services or engaging with county services based on immigration status.”

Ms. Beuerman said the department was “pleased to have so much support from the fire chief and the Sheriff’s Office,” and said the proximity would be “a great opportunity to demonstrate” that support to the community.