Three years after it closed its Calais office, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is re-establishing its presence in eastern Washington County.
The new office, which will be located at 330 North St. in Calais, will house about 10 staffers from the Office for Family Independence, Office of Child and Family Services, Office of Aging and Disability Services, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Jackie Farwell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. Services provided will include processing of applications and renewals for public assistance programs, she said.
“We look forward to re-establishing this connection with the Calais region, and strive to make services accessible to Maine people in all corners of the state,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.
The DHHS office formerly located on Spring Street closed in October 2016 and its services were consolidated with the agency’s office in Machias, 40 miles away. The department at the time cited high cost — rent at the location ran $100,000 a year, it said — as the reason for the move.
That decision was met with resistance from Washington County lawmakers and Calais city officials.
Farwell said that office had served an average of 21 clients a day, and after the closure, DHHS staff were available at a satellite site in Calais once a week before the department increased those visits to two days a week in March.
DHHS has signed a 20-year lease for the North Street location, and it is expected to open in October, Farwell said. Those employees who were moved from the former Calais office to Machias will be given the option to return to work in Calais and new hires are expected.
“Maine people deserve access to the critical services provided by the Department of Health and Human Services,” Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said. “I am pleased that we are able to reopen this office and ensure that state government is available and responsive to the needs of the people of Washington County.”