There they go again

Our good friends at Maximus Inc. - the American firm that won the privatization contract to administer PharmaCare and British Columbia's Medical Services Plan - aren't getting much comfort from the southern state of Tennessee. Earlier this month, The Commercial Appeal's Tom Bailey Jr. reported 25th judicial district attorney general Michael Dunavant wouldn't be renewing a five-year, $7.3 million child support services and enforcement contract with the company. According to new release announcing that decision, the contract wasn't renewed because of "declining efficiency in performance measures" and "numerous complaints from clients of the program that the current private company is not effective in serving the best interests of the children of this district." Fancy that! The following is a complete copy of that release.

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The State of Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) provides funding for and administers the child support programs in all thirty-one (31) judicial districts in Tennessee. DHS enters into grant agreements with either Tennessee District Attorneys General or private child support companies to establish and maintain child support enforcement offices and programs at the local judicial district level, to comply with the provisions of Title IV-D of the Federal Social Security Act. Here in the 25th Judicial District, which includes Lauderdale, Tipton, Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy counties, the current State contract is with Maximus Child Support Services, Inc., a private company that has served these counties for the last 5 years, since 2003, and that contract expired on June 30, 2008.

District Attorney General D. Michael Dunavant is pleased to announce that, effective July 1, 2008, this office will provide all child support establishment and enforcement services for the 25th Judicial District (Lauderdale, Tipton, Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy Counties). Pursuant to a request from the DHS and the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, General Dunavant agreed to assume the responsibility for establishment and enforcement of all child support cases in this district. As of July 1, 2008, Tennessee District Attorneys General will be responsible for child support enforcement in 21 of the 31 judicial districts in Tennessee, including this one. This decision by DHS and General Dunavant has come as a result of declining efficiency in performance measures in this district over the last 5 years by Maximus, as well as numerous complaints from clients of the program that the current private company is not effective in serving the best interests of the children of this district.

As a result of this change in child support contract providers, General Dunavant has established a new Child Support Enforcement Division in his office, in addition to the Criminal Division which already serves this district by the prosecution of criminal offenses. The new Child Support Enforcement Division will have new offices in Bolivar (to serve Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy counties) and in Covington (to serve Tipton and Lauderdale counties), and will consist of twenty-nine (29) total employees, including 1 Child Support Administrator, 2 Child Support Assistant District Attorneys General, 2 Paralegals, 2 Specialist III Supervisors, 17 Specialist II Case Managers (specializing in the areas of child support establishment, enforcement, and interstate cases), 4 Specialist I Customer Service Representatives, and 1 Child Support Investigator. The offices will also be relocating to different sites at 101 Mueller Brass Road in Covington and at 1361 Market Street/Highway 64 in Bolivar to accommodate the increased staff and to better serve the public. Finally, General Dunavant will be making significant changes in the quality and efficiency of child support service to the citizens of the 25th Judicial District, including changes in personnel, training, case management, service of legal process, prosecution of criminal contempt and flagrant non-support offenses, office management and supervision, telephone systems, customer service, professionalism, and attitude. All new employee positions have been filled with qualified persons dedicated to serving the children of this district.

Additionally, in the next few months, General Dunavant and his Child Support Administrative staff will be meeting with all Judges and Clerks in the Juvenile and Chancery Courts in the five counties in this district, as well as all five Sheriffs, to ensure that this new Child Support Enforcement Division properly serves the interests of justice by working well with those Courts and officers to achieve fair and effective results that directly serve the children of this district in a positive and timely manner.

This is an important service to children in our community, and General Dunavant is committed to improving the effectiveness of child support enforcement in this district. Failure to pay child support is not a victimless crime in Tennessee. This office will take whatever legal measures are necessary to enforce child support orders, including prosecution for civil contempt (which carries up to 10 days in jail for each violation), criminal contempt (which is equivalent to a Class B misdemeanor and carries up to 6 months in jail), nonsupport (which is a Class A misdemeanor that carries up to 11 months, 29 days in jail), flagrant nonsupport (which is a Class E Felony offense which carries a possible punishment of 1-2 years in the penitentiary), administrative revocation of licenses (including driver's licenses, hunting licenses, and professional licenses), and garnishment and attachment of wages, accounts, and IRS tax refunds.

Since General Dunavant's election to this office in 2006, he has striven to put in place various programs which serve the interests of public safety. Through grant funding, this office has reorganized and established the 25th Judicial District Drug Task Force, and has been a participant in a pilot Drug Court program in Fayette County. With help from Governor Bredesen, General Dunavant has participated in and promoted public education of the dangers of methamphetamine, through the "Meth is Death" campaign. General Dunavant serves on the executive and legislative committees of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, as well as the Tennessee Public Safety Coalition. Through that service, General Dunavant has worked with Tennessee legislators to strengthen criminal penalties for violent felonies committed with firearms, under the "Crooks with Guns" law that passed last year. Also, thanks to the efforts of our local members of the General Assembly, this office was able to receive funding to hire two additional Assistant District Attorneys to meet an ever-growing criminal caseload in this district. General Dunavant has worked very closely with the Carl Perkins Child Advocacy Centers in this district to more effectively prosecute crimes committed against children. Later this year, General Dunavant hopes to receive grant funding through the Governor's Highway Safety Office to provide a DUI prosecutor and coordinator to focus on DUI and other alcohol and drug related driving offenses in Fayette and Tipton counties. It is General Dunavant's hope and intention that, by assuming the responsibility for child support enforcement in this district, he can continue to fulfill the expectations of the citizens of the 25th Judicial District to use the resources and authority of this office to effectively serve them in any way possible.

If you have any questions regarding this new Child Support Enforcement Division, or wish to speak to General Dunavant about any issues, please contact him or your local child support office. The telephone number in Covington is (901) 475-0342. The telephone number in Bolivar is (731) 659-3215. For more information on the State of Tennessee Child Support Program, please visit the DHS website at: http://state.tn.us/humanserv/cs/cs main.htm.

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