MIDDLETOWN, R.I. Legislators, state agency leaders, community partners and Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) staff came together Monday, February 25, 2019 to celebrate the new location and customer-focused design of the DHS Middletown Family Regional Center, at 31 John Clarke Road.
The critical work of DHS and the continued partnership with Child & Family, who owns the building where the office relocated to in December 2018, was repeatedly highlighted during the short festivities. DHS Middletown was previously at 272 Valley Road.
"What a great opportunity for us, government and community organizations, to really leverage all of our resources to strengthen Middletown and Newport County," said Marty Sinnott, President & Chief Executive Officer of Child & Family, one of the state's largest, comprehensive service nonprofit organizations, in his welcome remarks. The two agencies share many customers, he added, and they will continue to serve them well.
Senator Louis DiPalma, D-Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, called the union a "true public-private partnership" and "model" before thanking DHS for "maintaining its commitment and presence on Aquidneck Island."
Executive Office of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Lisa Vura-Weis added, "This co-location is a true example of a wonderful state partnership with one of our long-standing community partners. Because of collaborations like this, we are making Rhode Island stronger."
She also gave credit to the leadership of DHS Director Courtney E. Hawkins and the entire department for the "undeniable" progress it has made since her arrival in June 2017. Achievements include:
* SNAP timeliness has been more than 90 percent since April 2018.
* The 90-day average percentage of applications where a worker was able to determine eligibility on the same day of receiving an application is 82 percent. It was 50 percent in April 2018.
Representatives Marvin Abney, D-Middletown and Newport, and Deborah Ruggiero, D-Middletown and Jamestown, also remarked about the critical work DHS does to help all who need its benefits and services.
"DHS is the true lifeline for so many in our state and that it would not be possible without the dedication and the compassionate, hardworking employees of DHS who come to work every day to assist our friends, our families and our neighbors who are in a little need of our help," said Rep. Abney.
Said Rep. Ruggiero, "The Department of Human Services really provides a lifeline and helps so many families meet the basic needs."
Sinnott, Vura-Weis and all the present General Assembly members – Rep. Terri-Denise Cortivriend, D-Portsmouth and Middletown, was also in attendance – helped Director Hawkins in a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Hawkins pointed out how the office, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., includes four interview rooms for increased privacy, a clutter-free lobby and a designated children's area. There is also RIPTA shuttle service to the building and ample parking.
Director Hawkins said the department is "committed to excellence in everything we do and our core values of kindness and compassion toward another human being will be present every day."
She also said, "DHS's success is critical to the success of us as a state. If we don't support vulnerable individuals and families in meeting their basic needs then we will never achieve our broader economic, educational and quality of life goals. If kids don't have food in their bellies, they can't learn, if mom doesn't have access to child care, she can't go to work and if dad working a minimum wage job doesn't have access to job training, he won't be able to make economic progress."