Citing the tough economy and looming health-care reform, the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services is seeking approval for 77 new positions to help deal with current and expected caseloads in the coming fiscal year.

The request will be considered Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

The Social Services Department is responsible for services for children, the elderly and dependent adults in Santa Barbara County, supporting 100,000 residents.

Since 2006, caseloads have increased 54 percent, while positions will have increased only 17 percent, causing a backlog in many of the department’s benefit programs, according to a letter to the board.

That 17 percent includes the 77 positions the supervisors are being asked to approve on Tuesday.

The department also works to help clients determine if they qualify for federal assistance such as CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program, and Medi-Cal.

The CalFresh program alone has seen a 120 percent increase in caseloads since 2006, the letter states, while Medi-Cal has seen a 59 percent rise during that same time.

These are the largest programs offered by the Social Services Department, and “are projected to continue to grow at a double-digit pace.”

At the same time, big changes also have occurred in the child-welfare and adult protective-services programs as well as others, resulting in increased workload.

“DSS has not added sufficient legal positions to address these increased demands, and instead tried to manage through the use of overtime and extra-help staff, two strategies that have not been entirely effective, as they have resulted in employee fatugure, higher turnover and less time for staff development,” the board letter states.

Looking forward, implementation of the Affordable Care Act in January will also require more staff to help people enroll and stay signed up for Medi-Cal.

As many as 39,000 residents in Santa Barbara County could be newly eligible for Medi-Cal under the new ACA guidelines.

The positions are also needed to protect the department from liability as well as meet the guidelines required to collect state and federal funding, the letter states. 

The money to add the positions will not require any additional county general fund contributions, the board letter states. The $5.8 million needed to fund the positions, including benefits and retirement, would come from state and federal sources.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room of the county Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.