Hello, Hamilton County

  E-News for Hamilton County Citizens and Employees

October 17, 2001

  Quote of the Week:  "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." -Anon.

Burke appointed as New Job and Family Services Director

Hamilton County announced today the appointment of Suzanne Burke as the new Director of the Department of Job and Family Services (HCJFS).  Ms. Burke, who currently serves as the Director of Administrative Services, began her public service career with Hamilton County in 1988.  Prior to serving as Administrative Services Director, Ms. Burke worked extensively in the human services field including serving as HCJFS Chief Financial Officer, HCJFS Assistant Deputy Director in charge of Child Support   Enforcement, Deputy Director of Domestic Relations Court, as well as administrative positions with two local retirement community organizations. 
 Suzanne Burke, the County's Director of Administrative Services since 1997 and a County employee since 1988, will become Director of Job and Family Services effective January 1, 2002.

During her previous tenure with HCJFS, Ms. Burke was the driving force in creating innovative programs such as the implementation of managed competition in the Child Support Enforcement Division and the creation along with a local media partner of the “most wanted” profile of parents delinquent in their child support obligations.  Ms. Burke is also a former Hamilton County foster parent. 

Ms. Burke holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Miami University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Xavier University.

According to County Administrator David Krings, “It has been my pleasure to work closely with Suzanne Burke for the past several years. In her I have seen a rare combination of outstanding leadership ability, intellect and a deep compassion for people in need.  I cannot think of better qualities for the County’s top leader in human services to possess.” 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve Hamilton County as the Director of Job and Family Services,” stated Ms. Burke.  “I look forward to building on the department’s record of excellence and innovation in service to citizens. Most importantly, I have a passion for serving people.  Being Hamilton County’s Job and Family Services Director affords me a unique opportunity to help people improve their lives.”

The HCJFS Director position became vacant this summer when Don Thomas retired after 13 years of service to Hamilton County and over 30 years of public service. Ms. Burke, who assume her new responsibilities on January 1, 2002, was selected from a field of approximately 50 candidates in a nation-wide search. To assist with the search, Hamilton County retained Slavin Management Consultants, a leading firm specializing in the recruitment of top executives for local governments nationwide.  Hamilton County also incorporated a community panel to develop the recruitment profile and to advise the County Administrator during the evaluation of candidates for the position.  The community panel consisted of advocates, religious and business leaders and members of the Human Services Planning Committee.  The County wishes to express its gratitude to the following individuals who provided input during the process: Sheila Adams, President of the Urban League, Eileen Cooper-Reed, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, Brenda Eakins, President of AFSCME Council 8 Local 1768, Michael Fischer, President of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, Tom Kidd, Retired Hamilton County MRDD Director, Robert Logan, Executive Director of the Council on Aging, Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr., Pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of the Cincinnati Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, and Pete Strange, President of Messer Construction. 

The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services is the County’s largest department and is the largest fully combined local human services agency in Ohio.  Services provided to the community by the Department of Job and Family Services include adult services to protect the elderly from neglect and abuse, children’s services to assist neglected, abused and dependent children, income maintenance to provide financial assistance and services to low income individuals and families, child support enforcement, and work force development efforts.  HCJFS recently received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services (COA).  Hamilton County is one of the first combined, public human services agencies in the nation to be accredited.


Benefit Plans and Employee Contributions Set for 2002
In September the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners approved benefit plans and employee contributions for the plan year beginning January 1, 2002.

Eligibility for participation in County benefits plans has not changed. Employees regularly scheduled to work 30 or more hours per week are eligible to participate in the Freedom of Choice Plan.

The Freedom of Choice Plan will continue to include three medical plans from Humana/ChoiceCare. Those plans will be New Health, Primary Access (replaces the current Advantage network) and Co-Choice (available only to employees hired prior to January 1, 1994). Humana/ChoiceCare is no longer offering the Advantage network. The Advantage network is being replaced by the Primary Access network. This network includes all providers that are in the Advantage network so NO employees will have to change providers if they decide to participate in Primary Access. This network also includes additional providers. Employees will not need to complete any additional paperwork if they currently participate in Advantage and for 2002 choose Primary Access. All employees covered by County medical plans are expected receive new medical identification cards from Humana/ChoiceCare prior to January 1, 2002.

Medical plan premiums for the County are increasing $3.3 million in 2002. Certain plan design changes have been made to keep the increase as low as possible while continuing to offer a quality benefit plan. Details of the plan design changes will be provided with open enrollment paperwork.

Employees covered under the New Health or Primary Access plans are going to be sharing in the increased expenses with the County. The amount of increase in the premium will be shared equally by the County and employees covered under the plan. Employees covered under Co-Choice will see a larger increase in employee contributions because the County is leveling its contributions to all medical plans. Employee contribution information will be provided during open enrollment or is available from your Payroll Officer.

County Administrator David Krings states, "I am very pleased that the County remains committed to providing excellent medical insurance benefits that are very competitive with large private sector employers, at a time when economic factors are uncertain."

The Freedom of Choice Plan will continue to include three dental plans: Dental Care Plus, DMO and Superior Dental. All benefits under the plans will remain the same for 2002. Employee contributions will increase from between 3% to 5.5% depending on which plan covers them.

The vision discount program through EyeMed will continue for 2002. Employees will receive new cards from their department payroll officer.

Basic and voluntary life insurance plans will continue with no plan changes for 2002. Basic life insurance is provided by to all benefits-eligible employees at no cost to the employee. Premiums for voluntary life insurance for 2002 have not increased; however, individual employees may see an increase in premium due to reaching a new age bracket.

Two voluntary long-term disability options will continue to be offered. Premiums for these plans will not increase for 2002; however, employees may see an increase in premium due to an increase in base salary and/or reaching a new age bracket.

Health Care and Dependent Care spending accounts will continue to be available to employees. Rules for participation and reimbursement remain the same. Employees are encouraged to review their medical coverage carefully and consider enrolling in a health care spending account to cover co-payments, deductibles and other non-covered services. Use of these accounts result in less federal and state taxes for employees. It is important to plan carefully so that no money is forfeited in these accounts.

We are planning for open enrollment to begin in late October. As in previous years, plan representatives will be available at different locations during the enrollment period. As soon as times and locations are set, departments will be notified.

The County is pleased that it can continue to offer a high-quality and very competitive benefit plan at reasonable prices for employees.


MSD Director Testifies at House Subcommittee Hearing on Water Security

MSD Director Pat Karney

In testimony on the security of the nation's water resources before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) asserts that wastewater utilities are indeed vulnerable to terrorist attacks but that AMSA has taken

and will continue to take decisive steps towards ensuring the security of the nation's wastewater utilities.AMSA is the sole representative of the nation's publicly owned wastewater utilities, with a membership numbering over 260. AMSA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States, are environmental practitioners dedicated to protecting and improving the nation's waters and public health, and collectively treat and reclaim over 18 billion gallons of wastewater every day. The Environmental Protection Agency, Congress, states and industry often look to AMSA for technical insight on a wide range of clean water issues, including water utility security.

At a hearing entitled "Terrorism: Are America's Water Resources and Environment at Risk?", Patrick Karney, Director of Hamilton County's Metropolitan Sewer District, testifying on behalf of AMSA, responds that, "Yes, America's wastewater utilities, water resources and the environment are at risk from future terrorist attacks," adding, "The events of the past month have revealed how little our industry knows about the unique risks posed by terrorist threats and how we can better prepare ourselves for an uncertain future."

Karney, however, points both to his own utility's and AMSA's response to the Sept. 11 attacks as exemplifying the direction the nation's utilities must take to ensure security. Karney states that "[i]mmediately following the events of September 11, AMSA's Board of Directors took decisive action to support wastewater utilities nationwide as they strengthened their systems against terrorist threats. Locally, we continue to examine our procedures and our facilities to enhance security in best possible way."  AMSA established itself as a link between the FBI-affiliated National Infrastructure Protection Center and its member utilities to ensure the swift distribution of FBI advisories and other key information regarding terrorist threats or incidents. Karney also points out to Members of the Subcommittee that cities will need help with vulnerability assessments and response plans, saying, "Such essential undertakings to ensure the security of our nation's aging infrastructure project will require federal support."


Flu Shot Program Returns to Hamilton County
Hamilton County and Humana ChoiceCare have teamed up again to help you be flu-free during the 2001-2002 flu season.
Employees with Humana/Choicecare medical insurance through Hamilton County must present a NewHealth, Advantage, or Co-Choice card to receive the vaccination at no charge. Employees who have declined medical coverage or who are not eligible for medical insurance may receive the vaccination for $12, payable at each location. (Please see you departmental payroll officer for the time/date for your office location.)

What is influenza?

Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by a variety of influenza viruses. The viruses spread from person to person via airborne droplets of respiratory fluids, especially after an infected individual sneezes or coughs. Flu viruses generally enter the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth. Prominent symptoms of the flu include headache, chills and a dry cough, which are followed rapidly by body aches, extreme fatigue, malaise and fever. Typically, the fever starts declining on the second or third day of the illness as upper respiratory symptoms – nasal congestion and sore throat – become more noticeable. Each year, an estimated 25 – 50 million Americans contract the flu. Most people recover in a week or two, but the flu can be life-threatening for the very young, the old or those with chronic disease. Because most influenza outbreaks occur in the United States between December and April, public health officials recommend that people be vaccinated in the fall.

The Center for Disease Control's (CDC) guidelines in recommending who should receive a flu shot:

Everyone 50 years of age or older
Residents of long term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions
Anyone who has a serious long-term health problem with heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, metabolic disease - such as diabetes, anemia and other blood disorders
Anyone whose immune system is weakened because of HIV/AIDS or other diseases that affect the immune system, long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids, and cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
Anyone 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (who could develop Reye Syndrome if they catch influenza)
Women who will be past the 3rd month of pregnancy during the influenza season
Physicians, nurses, family members, to anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza
Others who should consider getting the influenza vaccine include:
People who provide essential community services
Travelers to the Southern hemisphere between April and September, or those traveling to the tropics anytime
Students and staff at schools and colleges - to prevent outbreaks
Anyone who wants to reduce their chance of catching influenza
Please consult with your physician if you have questions about the flu vaccine.

If you have questions about Hamilton County’s Flu Shot program, please contact Kim Pennekamp, Hamilton County Personnel Department, at 946-4705.


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Hello, Hamilton County is published twice each month.  It is placed on both the County's internal and external Web pages.  It is design to enlighten and inform both citizens and employees of Hamilton County.  If you have questions or suggestions for future editions, contact Erica Binford (946-4324), Sharon Booker (946-4428) or Eric Stuckey (946-4432) in the County Administrator's Office or e-mail to eric.stuckey@hamilton-co.org.