Remember Our Responsibilities

I'm a mentally disabled client of the Prince William County Community Services Board (CSB). I've been a client for more than five years. It's encouraging the progress the CSB has made in the last two years. I remember just two years ago when Phillip E. Dukes was still the executive director of the CSB and the agency was in the process of a managed care reorganization.

Although client advocates and CSB staff voiced their criticism of Dr. Dukes's management and the reorganization plan, it was the agency's late and inaccurate submission of a fourth-quarter report and an audit that revealed mismanagement, finally persuading the CSB board to not renew Dr. Dukes's contract and scrap the managed care plan.

During this time, many fine staff resigned from the agency -- but many good people are still left. The agency is now headed by Tom Geib, who has brought much-needed stability to the CSB. There is currently another reorganization plan, and it is being implemented. But it is not poorly thought-out or destructive.

The 1998 session of the General Assembly passed HB 428, which is a comprehensive bill regarding Virginia's community services boards and behavioral health authorities. The bill unambiguously states that at all times at least one client who is receiving services shall be appointed to the CSB.

At present, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors has not appointed a client of the CSB to the CSB board. There is no client-advocate member-at-large serving on the Prince William CSB.

I can't blame the CSB board for not taking action, as it is the responsibility of the Board of County Supervisors to appoint such a person. The supervisors have showed the enthusiasm of a wet dish towel.

Several months ago, Ross Horton, a senior assistant county attorney, attended a CSB meeting and briefed the board on the implications and difficulties of HB 428 and appointing consumers to the board. It was a slick presentation, and Mr. Horton remarked this was "uncharted territory." Several months later, nothing has happenned.

It will continue to remain uncharted territory as long as board Chairman Kathleen K. Seefeldt is not confronted with her negligence in not fulfilling the requirements of HB 428. We are not even afforded the courtesy of excuses.

A progressive county government would want to appoint a client to its local human services board.

MICHAEL RAGLAND

Triangle

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