Youth Court Judge Says DHS Crisis Could Be Deadly

Harrison County Youth Court Judge Michael Ward says he is worried. Ward worries about what he calls a major crisis that could cost the life of a child.

Judge Ward is talking about a huge staff shortage in the county's department of Human Services. Budget cutbacks have left the agency with only five employees.

To put that into perspective, back in 1989, when there were far fewer people living in Harrison County, the department had 20 employees. Now, the caseload just keeps growing. Just last week there were 33 new cases reported. How many workers do you think are available to investigate those 33 cases? The answer is one, and Judge Ward thinks that is a disgrace.

"If you think about it, that is like having 1,600 burglary cases in a year, and having one investigator to investigate all those burglaries," Ward said.

Several case workers from the Youth Court agree with Judge Ward. With more than 60 years experience between them, the people we spoke with called the current situation the worst they have ever seen.

Judge Ward goes say far as to say, this situation could have been averted, but the state never attempted to get federal dollars that were available.

"If funds are available by way of match money from the government, I simply cannot fathom why it has not been requested."

Ward says unless there is a solution soon, the consequences could be tragic.

"It is an impossible task for these people to perform and they are doing the best they can, but what is going to happen is somebody is going to die, some child is going to die."