Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communications Office
Governor Fletcher Announces Safety Legislation for Human Services Staff
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today announced legislation to enhance safety for state human services workers and add more than 300 staff, mainly to front-line services.
The Boni Frederick Memorial Bill calls for the implementation of several safety elements, including giving staff devices enabled with “panic buttons” and global positioning system capabilities and hiring the additional front-line staff in Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) offices across the state.
“Our human services workers face dangerous situations each and every day,” said Governor Fletcher. “I committed to Boni Frederick's co-workers that we would take steps to provide the protection and tools workers need to keep them safe, and this legislation is a critical part of fulfilling that commitment.”
The legislation is named for Boni Frederick, a 67-year-old Morganfield social services aide who died in the line of duty last October. Frederick, who worked in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) in its Union County DCBS office, was responsible for transporting state foster children to medical appointments and visits with birth parents.
The legislation also authorizes neutral, supervised visitation sites where children in out-of-home care can safely meet with their birth parents. Under the legislation, CHFS may also contract with local agencies to provide the visitation sites and services.
“This bill will make working conditions safer for human services workers,” said Rep. Tom Burch (D- Louisville), a sponsor of the bill. “Our authorization of neutral visitation centers, extra staff and enhanced safety tools will mean significant changes in the way staff can help families. These workers see things and help people in situations most of us could never imagine, and they deserve this support.”
CHFS Undersecretary for Children and Family Services Tom Emberton Jr. said he and his staff welcome the legislation.
“Many social services workers have devoted their entire professional lives to the betterment of others,” Emberton said. “Our hope is that this bill will address much of the frustration and fear they so often encounter, particularly since Boni Frederick’s death.”
The bill gives a security makeover to local DCBS offices by adding improvements such as walls and buzzer-entry systems that restrict access to staff work areas from front lobbies.
Under the bill, DCBS staff will also have 24-hour access to criminal records.
“These kinds of background checks can’t always wait when it’s after hours or during the weekend,” Emberton said. “Staff will have the most up-to-date records at their fingertips before they make a potentially dangerous home visit.”
“We know the families who get more individual attention and more access to resources will have a better chance at well-being and self-sufficiency,” Emberton said. “The ability to fund these positions is a triumph for our programs and the families they serve.”