Forks Community Services Office to reduce physical footprint in September
Beginning in September, the Department of Social and Health Services will reduce its physical footprint in Clallam County. Customers will still have the same access to food, cash, medical assistance and other support services, online and via phone, as they have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the Forks Community Services Office will downsize and only provide emergent services in its existing space at 421 5th Ave.
The reduction in office space comes as the agency’s lease expires on Sept. 30. DSHS’ Community Services Division, which issues benefits and operates CSOs throughout Washington state, will sublet a small space and share a lobby with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the primary state agency tenant in the building. Once CSOs are able to safely reopen to the public, the appointment-based services currently available in person will be expanded, and customers will also be able to access those services at the Port Angeles CSO.
“We anticipate this change will be seamless to the people we serve in the Forks area,” explained Eddie Rodriguez, Regional Administrator for the Community Services Division. “Over the last 18 months, we have been providing the majority of our services by telephone or online due to our COVID-19 precautions, and our data shows services for people who live in this part of the state have actually been faster in a virtual environment than they were in person pre-COVID.”
In addition to aligning with DSHS’ business model that moves toward more phone and web-based service delivery, the new lease agreement at the Forks CSO will save an estimated $70,000 in taxpayer dollars annually, while maintaining the same level of service.
“We really miss working alongside our partner agencies and area tribal governments in person and, of course, interacting with people more often at the Forks Community Service Office,” said Jim Weatherly, CSO Administrator. “While we are certainly still mourning the old ways of doing business, our team is simultaneously looking to the future positively and creatively, including how we continue combatting poverty by providing support to individuals and families in need along the West End and Clallam County-wide in our same, slightly modified, Forks-based space.”
DSHS will also add a tribal liaison position in Port Angeles in the next couple of months.
“Our new tribal liaison will be positioned to assist our area tribal partners more effectively than we were in the past, due to tight budget constraints,” Rodriguez added. “We are very grateful to our tribal partners for working closely with us to help us meet the needs of tribal members in the area.”
Customers can apply for services and manage their accounts at 877-501–2233 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at WashingtonConnection.org 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Limited in-person services are available in certain circumstances; customers must call 877-501–2233, to make an in-person appointment.
The Port Angeles and Forks offices are part of the Community Services Division’s Region 3 Field Operations. For more information regarding this change, contact Jim Weatherly, Community Services Office Administrator; Joey Anderson, Deputy Regional Administrator; or Eddie Rodriguez, Regional Administrator, at 253-476–7044.