About 75 department heads, staffers, elected officials and others gathered Feb. 15 to celebrate recent renovations to the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Department building in downtown Asheville.
The improvements to the facility at 40 Coxe Ave. are intended to give clients better service in a wide range of areas, including Medicaid, Immunizations, Family Planning, Food Assistance, WIC, Disease Control, Work First and Child Care Subsidies.
The ongoing integration of the the county's Health and Social Services departments in to one organizational body – combined with the newly improved building – will provide those in need with a more convenient, one-stop experience, said Karan Smith, human services planner/evaluator.
"You used to have to drive all over town to get these different services," she noted. "Now, clients come in for one thing and realize there's service available for another thing they need all under one roof. …It's incredible for our citizens."
A lot of thought went in to the service and building improvements, said Human Resources Manager Lisa Eby. The facility now has a brighter lobby area with a small play space for kids, as well as a more organized system of assessing clients needs when they come in, she noted. "You walk in, and you feel you have value," she said. The feeling also benefits employees coming in and out of the building everyday, she added: "It's good for staff moral as well."
Health Director Gibbie Harris described the space before the renovations as "dingy." Now, "you can see people have a sense of pride in this facility," she said.
In their addresses to attendees at the gathering, several of the county commissioners offered praise for the changes, as well as for department staff.
"We've given you the facility commensurate with the job you do. You are the best," gushed Vice chair Bill Stanley. Commissioner Carol Peterson said the event marked "a proud day in Buncombe County." And board Chair David Gantt said the changes represent the work of a government that's serving its citizens well.
"We're going to have the most integrated health and human service system in North Carolina," he declared. "If people are having a hard time, we're going to help them. What government's really about is taking care of people."