Krista Corner Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Social Security Administration has teamed up with the District IV Human Resources Development Council to bring a new service to Hi-Line residents. Area residents, via a video conference link, will be able to speak with SSA representatives from Fergus Falls, Minn. Beginning Feb. 15 through a Webcam terminal at HRDC. The service will be available Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. No appointment to use the service is necessary, though users will have to take turns. Great Falls District Manager Greg Roy said the service is part of a pilot program so the SSA is able to help more people in rural areas. “Assuming this works, we will be able to extend our service to take the service to the people,” he said. “You can see how this is going to be a bonus for the public.” HRDC Director of Housing Diane Getten, one of the liaisons for the service, said she’s grateful for the service. “It’s a really big problem for me if the social security office is closed,” she said. “As the director of housing, I always need information from the Social Security Administration.” Roy added that the SSA will not discontinue its other services. “We do a lot of phone service and we’ll certainly continue to do that,” he said. The social security office in Havre will remain open Monday through Thursday from 9 a .m. to 3 p. m., though the office does close from noon to 1 p. m for lunch. The program is currently only available from the Denver region, which is considered to be the leading SSA region for this kind of technology, he said. The Denver region services Montana, Idaho, Colorado, North Dakota South Dakota and Minnesota. Though the technology is new to Havre, Roy said, the video feed isn’t the first operational line on the Hi-Line. Browning and Fort Belknap link to the social security office in Great Falls while Glasgow connects to Fergus Falls like Havre will. Northern Montana Childhood Development Center Child Services Director Frank Witter, another liaison for the service, said the equipment has been in place in Havre for several months now. “It’s been up for almost a year,” he said. “It never really got hooked up so it could be used.” Roy said the project is at the top of his list of projects to be completed. “I can assure you, it is one of our top priorities,” he said. Roy, originally from Alabama, took over the Great Falls district at the beginning of the year, after the former manager retired. The Great Falls district covers Great Falls, Helena, Havre and Glasgow. Witter said the equipment should be easy to use much like a telephone, only users cans see the person they’re talking to. “It connects right to the person answering questions,” he said. “Its almost like a telephone call.” Manager of Fergus Falls, Minn. Office Rick Elles added “It’s kind of like a conference call with a little bit of a delay." For more information on the service, residents may call the Great Falls SSA office at (406) 761-0661 or toll-free at (866) 289-8548 or contact Witter or Getten at 265-6743.