The Northern Valley Human Services (NVHS) board officially met for the first time since its creation. The NVHS is a zonal board overseeing the social services in Cavalier, Pembina, and Walsh counties as a result of the social service redesign bill that was passed last legislative session.

The first meeting was productive as board members present were Stanley Dick, David Zeis, Amy Kram, Janne Myrdal, Karen Anderson, Anne West, Manny Doyle, and Debra Fraser. Also present at the meeting were Cavalier and Pembina County Social Services director Jill Denault and Walsh County Social Services director Twila Novak. The board voted to place Dick as the chair and Fraser as the vice-chair. Holly Fetsch was appointed secretary of the board.

The board set the appointments of office in a stagger pattern with Dick and Anderson holding three year terms; Fraser, West and Doyle have two year terms; Zeis, Myrdal, and Kram have one year terms.

The process of payment for bills was a focus for the new board. Denault presented the Agassiz Valley Human Service Zone operational procedures as a template for the NVHS. The policy was accepted with the change being made to have the zonal board meet and approve vouchers for payment prior to the bills being sent to the host county.

The biggest discussion was set on the zonal director. Cavalier County HR Crystal Beggs explained to the board that there were no candidates to review as the state was still grading the applicants. Once the state has finished this process, the board will interview at least the top five candidates as graded by the state. The hope is to have a review of the candidates and begin interviewing in February. The director must be hired prior to the March deadline. Denault and Novak will continue as co-interim directors.

The board moved on to how they envision the zone working and what areas would be in need of attention. Insurance was discussed as the social workers in Walsh County depend on their private vehicles to complete their work. In the event of an incident, their own private insurance would be liable. The board discussed how they would address this in the future. Addiction services and foster care were also discussed as needing improvement in services. This, however, is held back by the human component which is difficult to overcome.

The social services departments located outside of the host county, Walsh and Pembina, will follow the Cavalier County schedule for closures unless the reason for closure is weather-related.

The board reviewed how often and when they would meet. Acknowledging that this may change, the board agreed to have the zonal board meetings occur on the second Monday of the month at 9 a.m. with the location rotating between the three counties. The next meeting will be on February 10 at 9 a.m. in Cavalier.

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