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Published on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Triage social worker Laura Summers honored for outstanding service

The County Board, as part of a year-long initiative to highlight employees who provide outstanding customer service, recognized Triage Social Worker Laura Summers with a "Customer Service Star" award during their meeting on January 23 in Virginia.


Laura Summers recognized for outstanding service

Shown above, L-R are: Adam Venne, Range Transitional Housing; County Administrator Kevin Gray; Commissioners Pete Stauber and Patrick Boyle; Kelly Sather, Adult Mental Health Supervisor; Commissioner Mike Jugovich; Laura Summers; Commissioners Tom Rukavina and Frank Jewell; Barb Hilde, Financial Assistance Supervisor; Commissioner Beth Olson; Auditor Don Dicklich; Natalie Smoelich, Triage Financial Worker; Linnea Mirsch, director of Public Health and Human Services; Lori Bouchar, Financial Assistance Supervisor.


PHHS Director Linnea Mirsch shared the following comments about Laura:


Laura has worked for St. Louis County for 27 years (next month). In fact, Laura literally started working for St. Louis County the day after her graduation from UW Stout. From a temporary worker in ongoing Child Protection to an Ongoing Child Protection SW, Child Custody Evaluator, Family Outreach Services, Initial Intervention Unit, Court Petition Writer/Family Outreach/Parent Support Outreach Program and now Triage Social Worker, our first in northern St. Louis County.


The work we do in PHHS to protect, promote and improve the health and quality of life in SLC is through our staff. Our programs are our people. As such, the north “triage” officially opened December 19, 2016 with re-orienting three Customer Service Representatives for the front desk and re-casting vacant positions to hire Laura, Natalie Smolich, Financial Worker and find space for our community partners - Range Transitional Housing, AEOA and Range Mental Health Center to work alongside us as we work differently. 


So Laura was hired for a new triage position, a cornerstone of the new Reception area and customer service commitment in Virginia. Laura used all of the knowledge she has accumulated through the years, her community connections, and her outgoing personality and shines in this position. Laura recognized the vision from day one and has not strayed from it – in fact she is bringing our vision for triage to a new level in order to better meet the needs in the community. She strives to help anyone that walks in the door regardless of what “area” their need is in. Laura also is a huge asset to her co-workers. She is a go to for a lot of workers in search of various resources in our community. Laura also is always willing to help where needed. She has since increased her work capacity to include taking adult mental health referrals, assisting with GRH site visits, and has done emergency back-up coverage for the Children and Family Services Division. Laura truly is a servant leader.


Some Customer Service Award Recipients are recognized at the State level and for their policy and analysis work. Laura is the picture of customer service in her problem solving skills and passion for others. I’m confident the community would commend Laura as well as us.


This past year Laura has problem solved directly in her triage role with 763 intakes in 2017   - from mental health to chemical dependency to housing support services and so forth. A few specific examples that help tell the story of her important role: 

  • Earlier this year (2018) a young man who self-identified as being homeless “since he was 15 years old” came to triage for assistance. When our front desk Customer Service Support staff spoke with him and he identified some of his issues, they walked back to talk with the Triage Team.  Our community partner was able to meet with him on the spot to complete an interview. During this interview, she was able to identify a number of barriers for him to be able to secure housing in a traditional manner, but he was a candidate for the Long-Term Homeless/Group Residential Housing Program.  The Triage Team was able to work together quickly and efficiently to assure he was financially eligible and program eligible.  This young man is now safely housed and is having his basic needs met.  He received information about community resource programs including food options, telephone program information, job search information and so forth. He is receiving supportive services through the LTH/GRH program.  This will require the young man to be responsible to meet with his assigned housing support worker for 16 hours per month.  They will focus on basic needs, budgeting, mental health needs, chemical dependency needs, medical needs, and provide ongoing support with the goal being independence.  


  • Last year in the first month of being open a Supervisor alerted Laura to a young woman with a baby in the hallway sitting on the floor – visibly upset. She agreed to meet with Laura and acknowledged that she needed help. Through an interview Laura was able to ask about visible injuries and eventually opened up to domestic violence and her homelessness. This young woman also shared her abusive childhood, her time in foster care and her general “distrust of county social workers.” However, both Laura and Natalie were able work with this woman to meet immediate needs. Laura continued to follow-up with St. Louis County staff in child protection as well as our community partners, Range Transitional Housing about a supportive living environment.  Although she had several barriers to moving into an apartment they were resolved. This young woman and her baby moved into supportive housing – providing them both with safety and stability free from violence. The supportive programming  provided in the housing  continues to provide a safety net for the baby and her mother.  This young lady and her baby went from being in a violent home life, with little hope, and a very real possibility of returning to this unsafe situation- to secure housing, day care, and food assistance in a very short 8 days due to everyone in Triage stepping in to remove and resolve barriers.  The baby was safe throughout this process- and the mom and her baby continue to remain safe and supported.

We can’t recognize Laura in her Triage role without recognizing her Financial Worker partner in this model, Natalie Smolich, and our community partners that work with us in our triage concept – Range Transitional Housing, AEOA and Range Mental Health Center.


Laura is a champion for community connection in her work and her outside of work community involvement – to name a few the Virginia Community Foundation, Virginia Volleyball Booster Club and PTA and many others. We are extremely fortunate to have Laura on our St. Louis County team and I am pleased to honor her as a Customer Service Start Award recipient.

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Author: Dana Kazel

Categories: St. Louis County Spotlight



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Dana Kazel 
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