Louisville social workers fear for safety after state cuts security

Cynthia Howard
Cynthia Howard
Doris Whitmore
Doris Whitmore

By Mark Schnyder - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - New Kentucky budget cuts could compromise safety for hundreds of state employees. Starting Friday, August 1st, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services office in Louisville's L&N Building will lose almost all of its security force.

An office worker who contacted us about the situation wouldn't give us his name on the phone, but when we paid a visit to Health and Family Services, there were plenty of people who did want us to know their names. In fact, they were writing them down on a petition to the state, hoping to get their security guards back.

"I tell you, I don't even want to be in the building anymore than I have to be," said Child Protective Services case worker Cynthia Howard.

It is a building where troubled families are forced to meet with social workers who sometimes take kids away - a volatile mix that without security has hundreds of employees and some clients very worried.

"What's keeping one of these supervised visitations from going 100 percent bad? asked James Sayre, who was taking care of some business at the L&N Building with his wife and little girl Tuesday. "And that social worker can't do nothing."

Howard, who has been a case worker for nearly two decades, says she has already had her share of hard knocks. "I have been hit. I have been kicked. I have been spat on."

The security guards wouldn't talk to us, but they know how much case workers depend on them for protection. Employees tell us it's not unusual for security to escort unruly people out of the building. But come Friday, those security guards won't be around for that, according to a state memo.

"They say they don't have enough money," said Doris Whitmore, a receptionist with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

State Child Protective Services workers were given a tip sheet telling them what to do if they are being attacked. Some of the advice offered includes:

  • React to the situation properly.
  • Look for an item that can be used as a weapon.
  • Take your shoes off so you can escape faster.

"So many ladies work here," said Whitmore. "The majority of us are ladies, and we're afraid. They take our security away it makes me not even want to come to work. This is some of the greatest security we've had since we've been working here."

We also heard a chorus out there of "What about the Boni Bill?" Then-governor Ernie Fletcher signed it into law in April 2007 to provide $6 million to improve social worker safety after Boni Frederick, a Henderson social worker aide, was killed while supervising a visit between a toddler and his biological mother.

We're looking into that, and hope to have some answers coming up tonight on WAVE 3 News at 6.

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