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Appeals & Complaints

The work of Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) is carried out in a public system governed by laws, administrative rules, and policies. Should a member of the public want to voice their concerns about services provided by HHS, there are two main channels available to ensure that complaints or questions are addressed:

  • Appealing a Decision: An appeal is a request to review a recent decision that denied, terminated, or reduced service. If you have applied for, have received, or are currently receiving benefits/services from an assistance program such as Social Work Services, Financial Assistance, or Environmental Health, and you are dissatisfied with how your application or benefits/services are/were handled, you may follow the process for filing an appeal which is outlined in Section 1 of this document.
  • Filing a Complaint: A complaint addresses a general process, program or personnel. This includes concerns about a specific case, caseworker, confidentiality, your health information privacy or security or experience with BCHHS. The public can also offer positive feedback through online surveys and comment cards. These processes are outlined in Section 2 of this document.

Section 1: How to Appeal a Decision

Appealing an Environmental Health Decision

Request for an Informal Review by Permit Holder or Applicant:

If a permit holder or applicant disagrees with a decision of the local health department on the interpretation, application, or enforcement of the rules, the permit holder may:

  1. Request an informal review; or
  2. Initiate a contested case in accordance with G.S. 150B.

The permit holder or applicant is not required to complete the alternative dispute resolution prior to initiating a contested case in accordance with G.S. 150B.

When a petition for a contested case is filed, the informal review process shall terminate.

If the permit holder requests an informal review, the request shall be in writing and shall be postmarked or hand delivered to the local health department within 7 days of notice of the decision giving rise to the review. The request shall state the issues in dispute. If the decision giving rise to the informal review was conducted by the Environmental Health Supervisor, the Environmental Health Regional Specialist assigned to that county or area shall conduct the local informal review. As soon as possible, but at least within 30 days of receipt of the request, the person conducting the review shall contact the permit holder or applicant, provide that permit holder or applicant an opportunity to be heard on the issues in dispute and issue a written decision addressing the issues raised in the appeal. Copies of the decision shall be mailed to the permit holder or applicant and to the State Health Director. That decision shall be binding for the purposes of future inspections of the establishment or site, unless modified through the formal appeal process or by the State Health Director.

The permit holder or applicant may appeal the resulting decision in writing within 7 days of receipt of the Environmental Health Division’s decision. The appeal must include a copy of the decision and must be postmarked or hand delivered to Buncombe County Health and Human Services Environmental Health Division and the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services within 7 days.

Within 35 days of receipt of the 2nd appeal, the State Review Officer will hold a conference. Notice of the time and place will be provided to the permit holder and the Environmental Health Director. Within 10 days of that conference, the Review Officer will issue a written decision.

Environmental Health Formal Appeals:

To pursue a formal appeal, you must file a petition for a contested case hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings within 30 days of the date of the action you are appealing. The petition for a contested case hearing must be filed in accordance with the provision of North Carolina General Statutes 130A-24 and 150B-23 and all other applicable provisions of Chapter 150B.

If you file a petition for a contested case hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings, you are required to serve a copy of your petition to the Office of General Counsel, NC Department of Health and Human Services.

To get a copy of a petition form, you may write the Office of Administrative Hearings or call the office at (919) 733-0926 or visit the OAH web site at www.oah.state.nc.us/form.htm

Office of Administrative Hearings
6714 Mail Center
Raleigh, N.C. 27699-6714
Office of General Counsel
NC Department of Health & Human Services
2001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-2001

Appealing a Decision of Public Assistance

Food and Nutrition Services (FNS):

An opportunity for a fair hearing must be provided to any household “aggrieved” by any action of the county Department of Social Services or coupon-issuing agency which affects the participation of the household in Food and Nutrition Services (FNS). A State Hearing Officer from the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) will hold a hearing in accordance with North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) 108A-79.

Each FNS client is informed on the application of their right to a hearing, of the method by which a hearing may be requested, and that their case may be presented by a FNS client or representative, such as a legal counsel, a relative, a friend, or other spokesperson. In addition, whenever the FNS client expresses disagreement with a county department action, they must be reminded of the right to request a fair hearing. If an individual or organization is available that provides free legal representation, such as Pisgah Legal Services, the FNS client must also be informed of the availability of their services.

Work First:

  1. The applicant recipient or personal representative may request the hearing verbally or in writing.
  2. The applicant recipient or personal representative may request a local hearing or a state hearing.
  3. Local hearings are held within 5 days of the client’s request. A designated Hearing Officer conducts the hearing.
  4. If the applicant recipient or personal representative is not satisfied with the result of the local hearing, they still may request a state hearing.
  5. Clients are encouraged to have legal representation and are routinely referred to Pisgah Legal Services.

Medicaid:

  1. The client or personal representative must sign and date the appeal request form which is included with the denial or modification notice regarding benefits.
  2. The client or personal representative may request a local hearing or a state hearing.
  3. Local hearings are held within 5 days of the client’s request. A designated Hearing Officer conducts the hearing.
  4. If the client or personal representative is not satisfied with the result of the local hearing, they still may request a state hearing.
  5. Appeal requests forms are sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) within 30 days of the date the notice was mailed.

Appealing a Decision of Social Work Services

District Attorney Review:

The reporter has 5 working days, from receipt of the decision of the department not to petition the court, to notify the prosecutor that they are requesting a review.

Unfavorable Preplacement Assessment:

The individual/family has 10 days, from receipt of the unfavorable preplacement assessment, to notify the Division Director that they are requesting a review of the unfavorable preplacement assessment.

Review of Selection of Adoptive Parents:

If the guardian ad litem disagrees with the selection of adoptive parents, or the foster parents want to adopt the juvenile and were not selected as adoptive parents, the guardian ad litem or foster parents shall file a motion within 10 days of the department's notification and schedule the case for hearing on the next juvenile calendar.

Responsible Individual Petition:

Within 15 days of the receipt of notice of the identification as a responsible individual, a petition for judicial review may be filed with the district court of the county in which the abuse or serious neglect report arose. The petition shall be filed with the appropriate clerk of court's office with a copy delivered in person or by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the director who determined the abuse or serious neglect and identified the individual as a responsible individual.

The petition for judicial review shall contain the name, date of birth, and address of the individual seeking judicial review, the name of the juvenile who was the subject of the determination of abuse or serious neglect, and facts that invoke the jurisdiction of the court. Failure to timely file a petition for judicial review constitutes a waiver of the individual's right to a district court hearing and to contest the placement of the individual's name on the responsible individuals list.


Section 2: How to File a Complaint or Give Feedback

Buncombe County HHS General Complaints or Feedback:

General HHS Complaints or Comments:

There are many ways that the public can file a complaint or give us feedback:

  1. Comment cards are located at every BCHHS facility. They are available in English, Spanish, and Russian. Comment cards are collected regularly and the comments are used to address issues or commend employees for excellent customer service.
  2. There is an online survey that can be found at buncombecounty.org/hhs. The customer survey is available in several languages and is reviewed regularly for quality assurance. The online survey helps us improve our services and address issues.
  3. The public can call (828) 250-5500 to voice a complaint. The customer service representative will direct the call to ensure that the complaint is logged with the appropriate department.
  4. The public can anonymously call the whistleblower hotline toll-free at (866) 908-7236. Citizens will not be speaking with a County employee but will be answered by an interview specialist with The Network, Inc.

    What should be reported?
    • Theft of County property money, materials, time
    • Waste or abuse of County property
    • Inappropriate or unethical behavior by a County employee or employees
    What should not be reported?
    • Tax bill complaints or problems
    • Matters that should be brought before the Board of Commissioners for resolution
    • Child or Adult abuse or neglect - those issues should be reported to Social Work Services at 250-5500.
  5. Clients can attempt to address their concern through the staff who is serving them. If the client feels that the issue remains unresolved, the staff’s supervisor will be enlisted to help address the issue. If the client continues to experience an unsatisfactory response, the Program Manager/Director will work to address the concern along with the Division Director. If needed, the BCHHS Director will listen to the client and gather information in order to make a decision regarding the appropriate agency response. The BCHHS Director will advise the client of other avenues to address the concern if he/she remains dissatisfied. Clients who continue to be dissatisfied are advised to contact NCDHHS.

Buncombe County Public Health: Clinical Services, Environmental Health, Nurse Family Partnership, Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

Complaints or Feedback Regarding the Public Health Division:

If a citizen does not want to submit feedback directly to BCHHS by comment card, online survey, in person or over the phone, they can report concerns to NCDHHS. NCDHHS will investigate client complaints referred to them directly by clients or concerned citizens. The NCDHHS customer service center for public health can be reached at (919) 855-4800.

Complaints or Feedback Regarding Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC):

If a complaint is made to a WIC Staff Member, that staff member must write up the complaint and submit it to the State WIC Director. If a member of the public does not want to speak with local WIC Staff regarding their concern, the staff member will provide the contact information for the State WIC Director or the USDA Director. The State WIC office can be reached by phone at (919) 707-5800.

Buncombe County HHS Social Work Services or Economic Services

Complaints or Feedback Regarding Social Work and Financial Assistance:

Citizens can report concerns to NCDHHS. NCDHHS will investigate client complaints referred to them directly by clients, County DSS or concerned citizens. The NCDHSS customer service center can be reached at (919) 527-6340.

Allegations of Discrimination:

If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex (including sex stereotyping and gender identity), or religion in programs or activities that HHS directly operates or to which HHS provides federal financial assistance, you may file a complaint.

Allegations of discrimination can be reported to the HHS Title VI Compliance Officer by calling (828) 250-5208 or by email at: hhscomplianceofficer@buncombecounty.org

You can also file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, electronically through the Office for Civil Rights Complaint Portal, available at ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/portal/lobby.jsf, or by mail or phone at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 509F, HHH Building
Washington, DC 20201
1-800-368-1019;
1-800-537-7697 (TDD)
Complaint forms are available at hhs.gov/ocr/office/file/index.html

Your complaint must be filed within 180 days of when you knew that the act or omission complained of occurred. OCR may extend the 180-day period if you can show "good cause".

Privacy and Security Concerns:

HIPAA privacy regulations establish a number of individual rights for patients with regard to their health information, including the right to file complaints concerning a covered component’s compliance with the regulation. You may file a complaint if you believe your protected health information has been improperly used or disclosed.

To voice a concern or file a complaint, please contact the HHS Compliance Officer by phone at: 828-250-5208

Or by email at: hhscomplianceofficer@buncombecounty.org

You may also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in writing or online. Complete instructions for filing a complaint may be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website at hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint/complaint-process/index.html?language=es


Last Updated 7.17 SLW