I received a phone call on Tuesday from a Communications Officer in the Commissioners Office of the Department of Social Services. She was concerned about my blog posted on Monday, which mentions the difficulty I had with the general phone number at one of the DSS regional offices. She explained that there is a toll free number on the DSS website to which I should have referred this consumer, rather than the general phone number for that office. I explained that I had worked for DSS as an eligibility worker for seven years and had never heard of this number. She replied that it is right on the website (with a bit of a tone, I might add). To which I replied that I didn’t have internet access while I worked there (or rather it was limited and we were instructed not to use it). The phone number we always gave to clients when they had called the wrong office was the general number for that office. I even asked a few current DSS employees, who didn’t know about this 1-800 number and said they also refer clients to the general number for the office nearest them. (As an aside, the general number in the Hartford office was so busy sometimes that desperate clients would dial a random extension just to be connected to a person. We even received an email instructing us to look up phone numbers for the clients’ workers and not transfer them back to the general number).
The Communications Officer proceeded to instruct me in all of the toll free numbers for DSS, including those for HUSKY and Charter Oak. First she told me that the client should have a worker she could call. Again I relied on my experience from DSS and said that I know there are times that an application isn’t entered right into the system, so the client wouldn’t know who that worker is. What I was really looking for when I originally called the general DSS number was an intake supervisor for the client to talk to, to see if the application had been received and assigned to a worker.
After all of this information sharing, the Communications Officer asked, “So you’re going to take it down, right?” “The blog? No,” I answered, I’m not going to take it down because that was the experience I had trying to find information from DSS and that was the experience the client had as well.”
I tried the 1-800-842-1508 number and was not able to speak to a person. I could push buttons for various program areas and was provided with some general information about programs but there no way to speak to an actual human being. I could, however, leave a message for someone to get back to me. Interestingly enough, the phone line did tell me that, “In order to serve you better we encourage you to contact the [regional] office by telephone or mail whenever possible.”
I have to say, I was a little angry that I was asked to remove the blog. I was also a little angry at the Communications Officer’s condescending tone, which suggested that everything she was telling me was common knowledge and apparently I just didn’t know where to look for the proper information. My closing thoughts are that, in this Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for many things, one of which is my freedom of speech.