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DeSoto County DHS Director Kristie Greer confers with county Facilities Manager Robert Jarman.

Henry Bailey|DTT

With facilities help from the DeSoto Board of Supervisors, Department of Human Services Director for the county, Kristie Greer, and staff will be able to assemble agencies to help Economic Assistance clients with multiple needs, in a "One Stop Shop" setting with scheduled times.

"I'm really excited about this," said Greer, after the board's go-ahead authorizing county Facilities Manager Robert Jarman and his team to work with the local, Hernando-based DHS branch. Space will be maximized at an existing county-supplied building housing DHS Child Support at 3210 U.S. 51 South.

At the same wide-ranging session, the supervisors OK'd participation by the county Animal Services shelter in a new canine cough study by Mississippi State University, and welcomed a report showing results in the Wings of Rescue program for pet adoptions. The board also approved applying for a new Justice Assistance Grant for the Sheriff's Department and endorsed county assistance with the planned Veterans Park in Southaven.

Greer said the "One Stop Shop" approach is meant to break down barriers for Economic Assistance clients in their efforts to boost their education, training, family health and stability, and ability to enter the workforce.

"In addition to the problem of basic transportation, they also face barriers such as child care, not knowing how to find out about job openings, not knowing how to fill out job applications, and how to dress or find the right clothes for interviews and the workplace," said Greer.

To encourage the greatest success for clients, the plan is to have a place for the following agencies to meet clients at specified times and days of the week, likely Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday:

Region IV Mental Health for clients with social, mental, job-related stress issues, or in the NFusion youth program; WIN Job Center for those needing employment or unemployment applications; Youth Services for clients whose children have dropped out of school, risking the perpetuation of a life dependent on economic assistance;

Families First for clients with parenting issues, aiding them with employment and readiness-building skills, and child care while they attend literacy or high school diploma classes; Northwest Workforce Development, in partnership with Northwest Mississippi Community College, evening classes for clients needing on-the-job training, adult basic education, and certification for manufacturing or other businesses;

Medicaid, under House Bill 1090 that requires interaction with Economic Assistance and Medicaid, with the latter assisting clients with health insurance issues; Health Department, helping with immunizations for children; Child Protection Services (formerly Family and Children), assistance with issues involving abuse; and Child Support, with staff available to help families needing this aid.

"The 'One Stop Shop' is a great approach," said Supervisor Mark Gardner of Southaven. He added he backs programs that bolster another term, "and that's 'self-reliance,' giving people a hand up rather than a handout."

Following a presentation by Animal Services Director Monica Mock, the board approved use of shelter animals in a noninvasive pilot study by MSU veterinary researchers into the cough-suppressing properties of the common pain medication tramadol in anesthetized canines. Lead investigators are Drs. Cooper Brookshire and Kimberly Woodruff.

Board members said the county is happy to assist.

"Our Animal Services staff is always looking for ways to improve services and the care of animals," said Supervisor Lee Caldwell of Nesbit, where the shelter is located on Humane Way. "What we call 'kennel cough' can be devastating, going through a shelter or kennel."

As to the county's ties with nonprofit Wings of Rescue, in which at-risk dogs and cats are flown to areas of the country with "pet deficits" and new, permanent homes, Mock said at least 146 shelter animals have departed during six airlifts starting Jan. 18. The first five were from Memphis and most recent, on Saturday, May 13, was from West Memphis, Ark.

The county waives adoption fees for animals selected. Mock said the costs of shots and other flight-ready requirements for Wings of Rescue animals is less than the normal cost per animal adopted through the county.

"It's been great," said Mock of Wings of Rescue. "It's really aided our numbers at the shelter, and helped all these animals we're having trouble placing."

Tanner Kuntz, county Grants Administrator, got the board's blessing to apply for a $3,750 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for local law enforcement, with a $1,250 local match. The funds would be used by the Sheriff's Department to purchase equipment in Fiscal 2018; during Fiscal 2017, a JAG award helped the department buy five X26P Taser stun devices with compatible power magazines, said Kuntz.

The board agreed to support the planned Veterans Park on DeSoto Convention and Visitors Bureau grounds near the Landers Center in Southaven. Also helping are the CVB, City of Southaven and private fund-raising led by R.G. and Diane Moore and other activists.

County Road Manager Andy Swims said crews from his department would handle some grading work and removing overgrowth from the edge of the property's lake, around which a walkway will be placed with monuments honoring veterans of America's conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the present.

"County Engineering is fine with the layout of the Veterans Park, and the City of Southaven has given its approval for us to do the work," said Swims. Southaven is engaged due to stormwater runoff and other issues running with the land.

With the board approval, the matter goes back to the CVB board for final OK, said Swims.

Caldwell said the DHS, animal shelter and park projects represent further examples of the value of inter-agency partnerships.

"By partnering with cities and agencies, we as a county can do more with what we have, for the good of everyone," said Caldwell. "It's part of what makes DeSoto County such a great place to live, that we're able to maximize our resources."

Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at hbailey@desototimestribune.com and at 662-429-6397, Ext. 241.

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