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genesee county department of social services

October 5, 2021 - 12:51pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county department of social services.

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Genesee County is on track to spend more than $9 million on Medicaid this year and New York State is doing very little to help alleviate this local obligation, according to the director of the county’s Department of Social Services.

Presenting his departmental review at Monday’s Genesee County Legislature Human Services Committee meeting, David Rumsey (photo above) said the county has little input over the government-financed health insurance program for eligible people.

Approximately 3,000 county residents are on Medicaid, he said, and that number continues to increase.

“The transition of Medicaid administrative functions from the county to the state remains unchanged. There has been no additional movement by the state to take over the Medicaid administrative functions,” he said.

Rumsey also mentioned the inordinate amount of time spent on determining people’s eligibility in light of the required five-year lookback period for chronic care (nursing home) cases.

“The Medicaid assistance programs have the greatest burden to the county, but for which we have little control,” he added, reporting that projected spending by the county for Medicaid in 2021 is $9,052,134.

In his report, Rumsey touched upon other programs and services offered by DSS as well as its budget status.

2021 BUDGET STATUS

Anticipated 20 percent cuts in state aid did not occur, he said, keeping the DSS budget on track for 2021.

“The pandemic continued to bring uncertainty about the projected funding streams and allocations, and it still does,” he said.

Rumsey said he is monitoring state training school expenses since the number of youths currently in detention will need to be budgeted for in 2023 (two-year billing cycle). 

He also reported that required training for new employees hired over the last year was put on hold at the state level.

“The state is currently formulating a plan to move the virtual training back to in-person, but this plan is reliant on the continued safety for the trainees that attend,” he said.

PROGRAMMING

-- Temporary Assistance (Public Assistance): This unit provides cash assistance to individuals or families, with benefits provided based on eligibility and on-going case monitoring.

“The overall monthly caseload is trending downward with a decrease in both Family Assistance and Safety Net,” he said. “There has not been a significant increase in homelessness noted yet.  The eviction moratorium is extended through January 15, 2022 which may change this trend.”

-- Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP):  This was rolled out by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to assist renters and landlords, but the start was “slow and not successful,” Rumsey said.

He said most of the funds went to renters, while assistance to landlords lagged behind.

“A lot of landlords had property damaged,” he said. “Now, they are getting a few more rights.”

-- Fraud: The DSS Fraud Department has been very busy, Rumsey said, with its two investigators following up on Font End Detection System referrals, Intentional Program Violations, prison matches, and allegations of welfare fraud.

-- Child Support: Federal guidelines strive for a minimum collection rate of 80 percent; DSS is at 78.94 percent, well above the state average of 67.20 percent, Rumsey said.

“This unit continues to work to ensure right sized orders are established and appropriate modifications to existing orders is occurring,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in the operations of this unit as the Child Support Court was temporarily closed.”

Other programs include Home Energy Assistance and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance.

SERVICES

-- Family First: In a move that will save the county money, the state is requiring the local DSS offices to reduce the number of residential placements by 12 percent.

“The Family First initiative is also requiring us to have at least 30 percent of our total foster care population in a certified Kinship (relative) foster home, and we are currently meeting both requirements,” Rumsey reported.

He also said that the Family First Prevention Act reforms federal financing to prioritize family-based foster care, preferably with kin, over residential care by limiting federal reimbursement for certain residential placements.

-- Foster Care: The DSS foster care unit has certified nine new foster homes this year, with three more pending by the end of the year, Rumsey said. Of the nine, three were “kinship” and six were regular foster care. DSS also was able to certify one new cluster foster home, increasing that number to four.

Rumsey said the county saved money this year through a reduction in voluntary agency therapeutic foster care placements and utilizing certified county foster homes.   

-- Preventive Services: Mandated preventive services are provided to assist families and children in meeting their needs and keeping the youth out of foster care placements. Rumsey said that through August, DSS has worked with 222 children with only five being placed outside of the home.

-- Child Protective Services: Through August, DSS has handled 646 cases of suspected child abuse and maltreatment, he said, with investigations taking place within 60 days as mandated by New York State. For September, there were 32 more CPS cases compared to September 2020.

“Moving forward these cases will be harder to determine because there is the movement from needing just credible evidence to having a preponderance of the evidence, which is a higher standard that must be met,” Rumsey advised.

-- Adoptions: DSS assisted in the adoption of four children with expectations that another three will be finalized by the end of the year.  Of the 54 youth in foster care, 10 are freed for adoption, he said.

Rumsey said that 115 children are currently receiving adoption subsidy payments.

The current annual adoption subsidy rates are basic $7,800, special $9,358 and exceptional $12,453.

“The other concern is that once a foster family adopts children, they rarely continue as foster parent resources for other children who are placed,” he said. “Permanency for children often results in shortages of foster parents.”

-- Adult Services: Currently, DSS has 155 Adult Preventive and Protective Services for Adults cases, with 33 of those personal care cases being monitored.

“DSS continues to partner with the Office for the Aging, the District Attorney, the Sheriff and Lifespan in a coordinated Enhanced Multi-Disciplinary Team to work together to assist our elderly Genesee County residents in combating elder abuse and financial exploitation,” he reported.

-- Detention: In 2021, five youths were placed into OCFS State Training Schools, which are very costly to the county, Rumsey said. The current detention rate is $468.17/day.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 12, 2021 - 12:23pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Department of Social Services today (July 12) announced that the Federal government, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, is providing funding to support eligible former foster youth through the coronavirus pandemic with financial assistance. The awards range from $5,000 to $12,000.

According to the New York State Department of Children and Family Services those eligible include young adults, 18 through 26 years of age, who were formerly in foster care in New York State after the age of 14. Funding awards are available through Sept. 30, 2021.

Funding awards available through Sept. 30, 2022 for young adults, 18 through 20 years of age, who were formerly in foster care in New York after the age of 14 and otherwise eligible for funding from New York State.

Any 20-year-old currently in foster care or 21 years old who remains in foster care can access the additional fund awards. Other youth currently in care can receive services, resources and financial assistance through local counties' annual allocations.

“We encourage any Genesee County resident who fulfills the criteria to visit the website created to apply for these awards,” said Ben Dennis, director of Social Services at Genesee County. “The pandemic has deeply impacted so many people, including the foster care population and people should know there are resources to help them as we emerge out of this public health crisis.”

It should be noted that eligibility requirements are subject to change without prior notification.

The link to apply for the cash awards is here.

October 5, 2020 - 8:45pm

Despite dealing with a public health crisis that has affected all of its programs and services, the Genesee County Department of Social Services has rolled with the changes to “continue to serve the residents of Genesee County efficiently and effectively,” the agency’s commissioner said today.

David Rumsey, presenting his departmental review at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee at the Old County Courthouse, reported that the diligence of his 107.5 employees (including a part-timer) has “come to the forefront in 2020 during the COVID-19.”

“With their ability to adapt to a new style of remote working, virtual training and a different feel for how to conduct business, they persevered and continue to serve the residents of Genesee County efficiently and effectively,” Rumsey said.

His 30-minute talk was based on a seven-page report that touched upon programming issues relating to: family visitations; child residential placements; and youth and adult protective services; budget issues relating to personnel; Medicaid costs; family assistance and foster care; and staffing developments.

Rumsey said the agency was at 50-percent staffing through June 1 (it’s back to 100 percent now) and that made it difficult to deliver services.

“All programs and services, in part, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that waivers were granted – and are still in place – for all program areas from conducting face-to-face interviews.

Child Protective Services Drop with Schools Closed

 With schools closed, child protective services decreased substantially, he said, as DSS was unable to get reports from school administrators. “We are seeing an uptick in CPS calls now,” he said.

He noted that the coronavirus hampered the agency’s ability to reunite families and perform court-ordered visitations until August, when DSS staff began supervising these visitations while adhering to all Center for Disease Control and Health Department COVID-19 guidelines.

Regarding foster care, Rumsey said the county had 69 young people in various foster care placements settings in August: 36 in regular foster homes; five in cluster homes; 17 in therapeutic foster care; and 11 in residential care. Additionally, two are at state training schools (detention) and one is at the New York State School for the Blind.

“The most prevalent reasons (for foster care) are still substance abuse and/or mental health issues of the caretakers or children” or the extreme acting out by the child(ren) that compromises the safety of the family members or community,” Rumsey explained, adding that costs to house foster children are substantial.

He said that placement in a “voluntary agency therapeutic foster home can typically average about $45,000 annually for board/admin, while placement in our own county foster homes, ranges up to $11,000 annually for board.

“We currently have 17 youth in placement with Hillside or Glove House therapeutic foster homes,” he reported.

The High Cost of Residential Placements

Rumsey said costs for residential placements for “our very high need and hard-to-place youth” affect expenditures and budget appropriations the most, with board and tuition expenses at residential treatment centers ranging from $145,000 to $230,000 annually for each of the 11 current placements.

He said that savings should be realized in 2021, however, as the state’s Family First Initiative is requiring Departments of Social Services to “reduce the number of residential placements by 30 percent and place those youth with families instead.”

The commissioner said that getting a foster child into an adoption setting takes time, thus keeping costs high. He said that of the 69 youth in foster care, 14 are freed for adoption.

DSS also intervenes when it comes to law enforcement and protective services for youth and adults, Rumsey said.

In 2019, New York State’s Raise The Age law stipulated that a youth can be prosecuted as an adult in criminal cases as long as he or she is at least 18 years old.

While the original concern was that more teens would be placed in both residential foster care and secured detention, this has not materialized, Rumsey said. He added that any increase in RTA spending or electronic monitoring should have no cost effect on the DSS budget as the state continues to promise 100-percent reimbursement on any RTA-identified youth.

Adult Protective Services Stretch Staff

Rumsey reported that Genesee County DSS has 161 cases in the Adult Preventive and Protective Services category, and that has caused additional strain on the staff.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, one worker was furloughed, which left four workers and one supervisor to oversee all the protective service for adult cases and handle preventive services (representative payee), utility referrals and guardianships,” he said.

On the subject of state-mandated Medicaid, Rumsey said New York has failed to live up to its promise to take over the administration of the program and sees “no light at the end of the tunnel.”

And, based on the requirement for a five-year look-back period for chronic care (nursing home), cases continue to take a great deal of time for eligibility determination, he said.

Rumsey said the department’s budget “remains on track despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” although a 20-percent cut of state aid looms.

“Personnel expenses are as budgeted, and we continue to experience a moderate turnover rate,” he said. “In 2020, we added two assistant county attorneys and one housing coordinator to our staff and hired a director of Fiscal Operations and Child Support (Jennifer Groff), five caseworkers, three social welfare examiners, two youth workers, an intake supervisor, intake clerk, and one part-time chauffeur. At the same time, we had one retirement, 10 resignations and two terminations.”

He said that only two of five vacant positions will be filled.

Medicaid Costs Fixed Through 2020

The county’s weekly Medicaid shares have been reduced to $153,807 per week, and will remain at the level through the first few months of 2021.

“This is the County’s local share of the entire Medicaid program, no matter how many additional people are enrolled or how many benefits are provided,” he explained.

Rumsey said the agency is providing temporary assistance for needy families at an average of 99 households per month involving around 203 individuals, with many of those being “child only” cases.

In closing, Rumsey defended and praised his employees.

“The work done at DSS does matter to our community. The job they do is not easy, and can be trying at times, and the role of this agency is often misunderstood,” he said. “Even with the additional stress the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the staff and their families they continue to work hard and are dedicated in the services they provide. I commend them all for the job they do every day.”

County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein echoed his sentiments.

“It has been six months and we are just really starting to get into our COVID experience of what we’re going to be living in for probably the next year to year and a half,” she said. “Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for the genuine and sincere care that your staff has demonstrated to our community. It is … appreciated by all of us here at the county because it is tremendous the pressure and the stress that is on every single person in the community and your staff.”

Commitee Passes Several Resolutions

In other developments, the committee approved several resolutions (to be forwarded to the full legislature) submitted by Mental Health Services Director Lynda Battaglia and Public Health Director Paul Pettit.

On the mental health side:

  • A contract with Jessica Kurzdorfer of Scottsville to provide additional psychiatric nurse practitioner hours at a rate of $95 per hour from Oct. 19 through Dec. 31. The pact calls for a maximum of 300 hours in that time period.
  • A contract with Spectrum Health & Human Services in Orchard Park for crisis after-hours services from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 at a cost not to exceed $12,534. Battaglia said the number of cases has increased considerably since April.
  • A renewal of a contract with Consilium Staffing of Irving, Texas, for psychiatry services at the same cost as what already has been budgeted for 2020 and 2021.

On the health department side:

  • An agreement with FairBridge Inn & Suites on Federal Drive, Batavia, to provide temporary lodging for both COVID-19 isolation and quarantine of individuals who are unable to stay in their homes and have a home in which to sequester themselves. The contract, to run through Aug. 26, 2021, calls for a rate of $40 per night if the stay is at least seven days or a rate of $50 per night if the stay is less than seven days. Costs are covered by the county.
  • Acceptance of a $23,130 from the state Department of Health to support the county’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Program. The grant period is Oct. 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.
  • Contracting with Melissa Caputi of Batavia, an occupational therapist, to provide addition special education itinerant teacher services, classroom services and evaluator services in the Preschool Supportive Health Services Program retroactively for the period of Aug. 15, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The pay rate is established by New York State, with 59.5 percent of the service costs qualifying for state reimbursement, less any Medicaid payment on Medicaid-eligible children.
May 1, 2020 - 8:47am

The Genesee County Department of Social Services is ready, willing and able to meet residents’ needs through a variety of programs despite travel limitations created by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

That was the message conveyed by Carla Mindler, director of financial services, and Peter Antonucci, coordinator of child support enforcement, during Thursday’s “Genesee Connects” video public service announcement.

Genesee County DSS is open during its regular hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and those in need of services are encouraged to call for assistance or utilize a number of helpful websites to get answers to there questions, Mindler and Antonucci said, noting that all department employees are wearing masks as a precautionary measure.

Mindler said employees in her department, which deal with benefits such as SNAP, HEAP, Medicaid and child care, can conduct telephone interviews, even for temporary and emergency assistance.

“The face-to-face interview has been waived by the state … and the eligibility has not changed – income, resources, residences, those remain the same,” she said, adding that if people want to come into the DSS building on East Main Street Road arrangements for in-house phone conversations would be made.

She said New York State has given DSS “flexibility as far as processing the applications that we get … as everyone is having a rough time right now getting documentation.”

“If you’re having a hard time getting this information, please reach out to us because if we have sent a request to you and we hear nothing, potentially your application will be denied,” she said. “If you are having a hard time, please reach out and we will do all we can to get you the information.”

She also advised that DSS will accept fax copies and has set up a drop box for paperwork outside the lobby that is checked several times each day. Additionally, paper applications for all programs (a requirement for temporary or emergency assistance) are available on a table just inside the main entrance.

Mindler highlighted some the programs that she oversees:

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

People can apply online at www.mybenefits.ny.gov or by filling out a paper application.

Mindler said New York State put a COVID-19 emergency allotment in place for those who had an open SNAP case who were paid benefits in March and April, with additional benefits provided up to the maximum amount.

“The state has also extended some cases,” she said. “If someone was due to be recertified in March, April, May, they’ve extended those out a few months, which has helped us greatly with our processing because we had a huge influx of new SNAP applications. This allowed us to work on the new applications and not worry so much on (existing cases).”

HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program)

Mindler said the program was scheduled to end on April 24 but has been extended to June 30, with a third emergency benefit added on.

“Both regular and emergency benefit components are now extended,” she said, again noting that people can apply at www.mybenefits.ny.gov.

Temporary assistance and emergency assistance

“In general, we have to have a face-to-face interview but that is waived right now,” Mindler said. “As long as you have an application we will call you for an interview but you still have to have documentation (paper applications).”

She said applications are online, at the DSS lobby or can be mailed to people who call DSS.

Medicaid

The majority of people for Medicaid, since it is run by New York State, will have to apply through the marketplace, she said, although cases where age, blindness or disability are involved can be handled locally.

“You can call our office to see where you should apply, but we do not have access to case status or application status for cases that apply through the NY State of Health (www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov),” she said.

Mindler reported that for those who had open Medicaid cases on March 18, at the outset of the virus, “most of those cases (per state directives) have been extended (by) 12 months, regardless of the type of coverage you had.”

Child care

Child care is a subsidized program and applications are being taken over the phone, she said.

“We do not have a wait list right now; you can call and just ask for the child care worker and she can explain the program to you, and send an application,” she said.

Mindler said that due to COVID-19, DSS has applied and been approved for a waiver "to waive the family share for child care at this time and also to get an extension on requirements for certification." For more about child care, the phone number is (585) 344-2580, ext. 6423.

As far as child support is concerned, Antonucci said the county office is “committed to ensure the quality of service and response to your needs continue.”

"We are continuing to go through all of our daily reports, correspondence that comes in is being reviewed and answered, and work activity that needs to be done is done in a timely manner so it doesn’t delay any child support payments,” he said.

Antonucci said that child support payments still being applied daily at the processing center in Albany and disbursed out to families, and that all enforcement remedies other than being able to file something with Family Court are being done.

“Income executions are going out to employers, employers are complying with them and sending the payments in and, in turn, they are being released out to the family,” he said.

Antonucci pointed to the following websites:

www.childsupport.ny.govWhere people can get general information as well as specific info about their account, how to make child support payments through the state processing center, setting up automatic withdrawals from bank accounts, paying by credit card, and submitting a change of address or employer.

www.co.genesee.ny.us  – By going to the Social Services page, people can find a credit card payment option – by clicking on a link to www. govpaynow.com. “This has been approved locally and we, locally, submit the payment to the state to be processed, which ends up as a quicker way to get it applied to the account and out to the family,” Antonucci said.

The Genesee County child support email is:  [email protected]

“It’s a great way of getting a hold of us,” he said, “and if you can’t through that way, you can always call the DSS number -- 585-344-2580 -- and you’ll be connected with an operator, and ask to talk to your child support investigator.”

The NYS child support help line is 1-888-208-4485.

The “Genesee Connects” video can be viewed here.

January 12, 2018 - 1:01pm

Press release:

Christina Hietala-Johnson, age 35, of Rochester, was sentenced to five years’ probation in Genesee County Court on Thursday (Jan. 11) as a result of her guilty plea last October to a felony count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.

In addition, Hietala-Johnson was also ordered to pay $2,245 in restitution to the Genesee County Department of Social Services, will be disqualified from receiving Food Stamp benefits and Temporary Assistance benefits, and must perform 500 hours of community service.

Hietala-Johnson had been charged in June 2017 with two counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree. Those charges were filed when a social services investigation revealed she had submitted various recertification forms to the Department of Social Services and failed to report that she was married.

Anyone wishing to report suspected cases of Welfare Fraud in Genesee County can contact the Genesee County Department of Social Services Fraud Investigation Unit at (585)344-2580, ext. 6417 or 6416. All calls are confidential.

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