The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) is creating a department ombudsman’s office to educate clients about their rights, help navigate the multi-division department, and to work with the department to identify and resolve issues that need to be addressed.
Former KATV Consumer Affairs Reporter Jason Pederson has been hired to lead the new office.
The position was created by repurposing an existing role within the agency.
According to the agency, Pederson will work with DHS leadership to create a client Bill of Rights and materials to educate clients about their rights as well as outline where clients should go for information and answers to questions.
“DHS has been working hard over the last few years to transform the department and many of its programs, but we don’t want to stop there – we want a culture of continuous improvement,” said DHS Director Cindy Gillespie. “Our next phase of work is focused on improving customer service, and an ombudsman is a natural part of those efforts.”
Pederson has been the longtime leader of KATV’s “Seven on Your Side” division, which has worked to resolve consumer complaints and hold businesses with scrupulous practices accountable.
“Jason can use those two decades of experience working directly with people who need help to serve our clients,” Gillespie said.
Pederson, 49, began working as a broadcast journalist in El Dorado in 1993 and moved to KATV in Little Rock two years later. In 1999, he took on the duties of “Seven on Your Side.”
“I look forward to serving Arkansans in this new role, to working with DHS staff to address issues, and to resolving issues in a fair way that helps the department improve processes and helps clients get the benefits they need and are eligible for,” Pederson said.
His first day at DHS will be Nov. 18 and the salary is $80,242.