The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) is creating a department ombudsman’s office.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) is creating a department ombudsman’s office.

Former KATV consumer affairs reporter Jason Pederson has been hired to oversee the new office. He will educate clients about their rights, help them navigate the multi-division department, and to work with the department to identify and resolve issues that need to be addressed.

Pederson also 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, Gillespie said, spent nearly 20 years fighting to ensure that Arkansas consumers are treated fairly. He and his team of volunteers took in thousands of complaints and worked to resolve them, even if they didn’t make it on the evening news.

“While our staff work very hard to meet the needs of our clients, we know people sometimes have issues that don’t get resolved as quickly as we'd like,” she said. “Jason can use those two decades of experience working directly with people who need help to serve our clients.”

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, a platform from which he has fought for the rights of consumers.

“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.

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