The Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Division of the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office -- headed by Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Ben Stromberg -- is responsible for advising and representing the county’s largest department – Public Health and Human Services. It also prosecutes all juvenile delinquency and public assistance fraud matters. Working closely with PHHS staff, the division represents the agency in a wide variety of court proceedings, including child protection matters, civil commitments, child support and paternity matters, truancy cases, and guardianships. The division also represents the agency in various administrative proceedings, advises PHHS personnel regarding human services licensing and data practices, and reviews and approves approximately 1,000 contracts annually. The division’s three investigators also work with law enforcement to investigate allegations of welfare fraud. In 2016, the PHHS division continued to experience a significant increase in child protection case referrals, a trend which has been an annual theme in recent years. From 2011 to 2016 the number of new child protection files opened in the county attorney’s office increased by 23 percent, while the number of files closed actually decreased by 17 percent. In short, while new cases are being referred at a continually increasing rate, for a variety of reasons, including statutory and policy changes at the state level, those cases are taking longer and longer to wend their way through the court system, resulting in dramatically larger caseloads for the division’s attorneys and staff. Similarly, the filing of civil commitment petitions, which are typically related to mental illness, chemical dependency, or both, has continued to trend upward, increasing from 164 in 2013 to 203 in 2016, roughly a 24 percent increase. As with the increase in child protection referrals, much of this increase can be traced directly to the prevalence of opioid and methamphetamine abuse. On a brighter note, the PHHS division has continued to expand the scope and size of its juvenile diversion program – the Youth Accountability Program – in an effort to keep lower-level juvenile offenders out of the court system. Those efforts appear to be bearing fruit as the number of petty and status offense matters filed with the court in St. Louis County has decreased from 443 in 2014 to 328 in 2016, an approximately 26 percent decrease. In 2016 the PHHS division in Duluth also began administering the local Student Attendance Review Board, a diversion program for children who are chronically truant from school. While the diversion program is focused on keeping the lowest level juvenile offenders out of the court system, public safety will always be the primary concern regarding more serious matters. Thus, while lower level charges have dropped significantly in the last two years, during this same time period, the number of felony cases prosecuted by the division dropped only 6 percent (to 209 in 2016) while gross misdemeanor matters saw a 30 percent increase (55 cases in 2016). PHHS DIVISION PublicHealth& HumanServicesDivision Benjamin Stromberg PHHS Division Head Duluth Office: Jennifer Barry Joseph Fischer Sara Jankofsky Amy Lukasavitz Clarissa McDonald Patricia Shaffer Angie Shambour Virginia Office: Renae Darland Leah Stauber Hibbing Office: Gayle Goff Carly Melin Investigators: Katherine Finc William Klein Shawn Laine 2016 ST. LOUIS COUNTY ATTORNEY’S ANNUAL REPORT 4