Sacramento County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has a new ombudsman whose role is to provide an independent and neutral forum for clients to express concerns or make complaints about the services they are receiving. The ombudsman will research the situation and determine if the Department’s actions are in line with current policy and best practices. Depending on the outcome of her research into complaints, there are a number of avenues available to the ombudsman to improve the services we provide. Sometimes a simple phone call or email to a supervisor can resolve the problem; however, should the case warrant, the ombudsman can recommend department policy changes. The Ombudsman also provides the general public information about DHHS services and programs.
The new ombudsman, Janet Robinson, has 30 years of experience working in social services with Sacramento County. She has worked in the Department of Human Assistance as an eligibility worker with special skills in African American culture, and represented the County in administrative hearings. She spent many years in Child Protective Services (CPS) as a social worker in emergency response, court services, and permanency programs, as well as serving as a program specialist in quality assurance and emergency response/informal supervision programs. Robinson has spent her career helping people, who have, for one reason or another, depended on County services. Her years of talking with families have given her a unique perspective and understanding of what families and individuals struggle with when engaging in government services.
Robinson is a brilliant communicator, said Health and Human Services Director, Dr. Sherri Z. Heller. “She can get across her passion and intensity and commitment to doing the right thing for our clients, while also speaking in a calm, deliberate, clear, logical manner. For clients involved with our department who are having a crisis, what a great thing it’s going to be to have somebody at their side who they can trust to explain to them exactly what’s happening in a way that is not judgmental and to advocate for them.”
With only a little more than two months as ombudsman under her belt, Robinson is still learning how she will fill her role. “I want to provide a helpful place for people to call if they have questions or concerns about the services we provide,” said Robinson. She strives to ensure that all who speak with her finish feeling informed and empowered.
With an average of 200 calls per month coming in, she has her work cut out for her. Though not every call requires an intervention on her part, Robinson does everything she can to connect clients with the services or the information they need.