Three years after it shuttered its Calais field office, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services opened a new office there Tuesday, re-establishing a permanent presence in the eastern reaches of Washington County.
First announced in June, the new office at 338 North St. will offer services that include processing of applications and renewals for public assistance programs.
The state has signed a 20-year lease for the 3,500-square-foot building, according to Maine DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell. It can house about 15 staff from the Office of Child and Family Independence, Office of Aging and Disability Services, Office of Child and Family Services, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Before DHHS closed its former office on North Street in October 2016 — citing the $100,000 a year rent — it served an average of 21 clients a day. After the closure, most of its services were moved to Machias, 40 miles away, and the agency offered satellite services in Calais one or two days a week.
Washington County lawmakers and Calais officials opposed the office’s closure.
Now, DHHS has hired three new staff members for the Calais office and has transferred several former employees back from the Machias office, according to Farwell.
“Re-establishing this connection with the Calais region will help to ensure better access to essential services that support the health and well-being of Maine people,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.