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Human Services Committee

June 4, 2019 - 3:19pm

A new interim director for Genesee County Community Mental Health Services was announced Monday at the Human Services Committee meeting.

Bernadette Bergman, the agency's board president, told committee members that the resignation of Director Ellery Reaves has been accepted and Augusta Welsh will serve as interim director through July 14 while the position is advertised.

If the job cannot be filled within 60–90 days, another interim mental health director from a neighboring county will fill the gap until a permanent director is appointed.

The prospect of sharing the agency's services with another county was also debated.

The committee discussed the possibility of a mental health director serving both Genesee and Erie counties.

Legislator Gordon Dibble noted the agency has not committed to shared services, but it is looking into other counties’ practices and whether a dual-county mental health director position would meet state requirements.

Committee members resolved to keep past experiences with shared services in mind as they continue to explore their options.

Welsh told the committee that Mental Health Services is collaborating with local school districts and nonprofit organizations like GCASA to reduce patients’ treatment costs and unnecessary emergency room visits. It is also seeking additional satellite locations to provide more convenient mental health and chemical dependency appointments to clients.

Welsh said the mandated new jail, once it's built, could serve as a prospective satellite site that could help maximize psychiatry services.

Also on Monday's agenda, Office for the Aging Director Ruth Spink informed the committee of slight increases in the per-unit cost of its ARC of Genesee Orleans home-delivered meals program.

The rate per meal will increase by 30 cents for home-delivered, congregate, cold/sandwich and frozen meals because state and federal funds cannot be used to cover meal preparation expenses.

“ARC is really struggling with continuing this program," Spinks said. "I think we’ve got a commitment to get through the next two years of this, but I’m not sure if they’ll be able to continue afterward just because of the increase in food costs and the increased cost in minimum wage.”

In order to prevent the end of the meal service after 10 years of success, the Office of the Aging and ARC will consider the possibility of a cooperative meal-service agreement with community organizations.

Similar to Mental Health Services, the Office for the Aging may partner with the new jail to offset rising food prices and wages of food service workers.

Lastly, the committee was provided an overview of an eight-month program for high school students that teaches leadership skills and good decision making.

City of Batavia Youth Bureau Director Jocelyn Sikorski expressed her satisfaction with the Genesee Youth Lead program and said it has garnered positive response from participants and local school districts as the 2018–19 academic year nears its end.

This community-based leadership development program immerses students in county policymaking and administration. Participants refine their problem-solving and teamwork skills during sessions that focus on a specific topic each time, targeting issues leaders in our county deal with.

These include: agriculture, health and human services, government, law enforcement, tourism, business, emergency preparedness, arts and culture, leadership opportunities, community service, team building, and job-readiness training.

“Great feedback from the kids with every session,” Sikorski said. “We evaluated every session, so we’re looking to gear up for next year. We start recruiting probably in the next week or two, and we’ll recruit all summer and then interview the kids in the fall again.”

The next Human Services Committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Old Courthouse in Batavia.

October 4, 2011 - 12:45am

For every department in Genesee County, this year’s mandated budget cuts are hard to swallow. The county legislature is forcing 5-percent cuts across the board, in order to fit the county budget under New York State’s new 2-property tax cap.

Nowhere is the hurt more apparent than at the County Office for the Aging. Director Pamela Whitmore had already lost $102,000 in annual state grant money this year – a significant blow to her 2012 budget. With the mandated 5-percent cut on top, the Office for the Aging will now have to eliminate over $134,000 in spending.

Whitmore likened the 5-percent cut to that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

“People are not going to get the level of service that they’ve gotten in the past,” Whitmore told the legislature’s Human Service Committee on Monday night.

She announced a planned $5,000 reduction to “Meals on Wheels,” which will now be on a three day-per-week delivery schedule if her budget goes according to plan. There are also pending staff cuts, social program reductions and fewer hours available for in-home services.

“Less staff means less time to do that face-to-face information and assistance – which is really the majority of what we do,” Whitmore said after the meeting.

Her message is further highlighted by this year’s census report, which shows a 16-percent increase in the over-60-year-old population in Genesee County. The census bureau also estimates that the population over 85-years-old, which is the most expensive to serve, has jumped by 33 percent in Genesee County the past decade (official numbers are not yet available for that category).

“It’d be one thing if the grant losses were just taking one program away…but most of our losses just took parts of each grant away,” Whitmore said. “So in essence, most of our services are still available, but there (are fewer) resources to provide them.”

In another Human Services report Monday, Chris Kuehl from the county nursing home told committee members that the home was able to reduce five positions to just three by consolidating some worker duties. That will save the nursing home $47,233 this year, and $104,439 in 2012, if the cuts are approved by the full legislature.

Also at the Human Services Committee, members approved the nomination of David Whitcroft as the interim public health director for Genesee County. Whitcroft's nomination comes on the heels of Randy Garney's abrupt retirement a week-and-a-half ago. Whitcroft will be paid $65,106 plus $600 in longevity pay. He officially takes over on Wednesday, if approved by the full legislature.

October 4, 2010 - 9:08pm

dss_kirkpatrick.jpg

One thing you need to know about social services and fraud is that just because a person isn't living up to your standards doesn't mean that person is getting public assistance illegally.

The lady could be on her sixth boyfriend in 10 months. She could be pregnant with her seventh son. The man down the road could be a drunk or a pack rat. Both husband and wife could sit on the front porch all day smoking Senecas, or hit the corner deli every day to buy scratchers.

None of that constitutes evidence of fraud, according to Genesee County Social Services Commissioner Eileen Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick spoke with the Human Services Committee today after a legislator raised questions about how DSS handles fraud cases.

While it's the responsibility of all DSS staff members to be on the look out for evidence of fraud, the department employs two full-time fraud investigators (the second position was created in 2006).

And those two investigators are kept busy.

Every day, DSS accepts 16 new applications for public assistance, and every one of them is a potential fraud case.

Of course, of the thousands of cases DSS handles every year, only a relatively few ever reach the stage of an actual fraud investigation.

In 2008, the two investigators formally investigated 342 cases, and there were 582 investigations in 2009.

"When you think about the number of cases we handle in our department, when you think about the thousands of cases, the number of complaints we investigate are really minuscule compared to what we are really doing," Kirkpatrick said.

A fraud investigation can either begin with a complaint, or during the initial application process, Kirpatrick said.

During the interview process, DSS workers look for inconsistencies, using a standardized set of "red flags": Has the applicant recently moved into the county; no documentation; primary tenant with no utility bills; landlord does not verify household composition; or an invalid social security number, for example.

Tips might come from law enforcement, other social services departments, friends, neighbors or even current welfare recipients.

"Clients are famous for ratting on other clients," Kirkpatrick said. "It's usually in defense of their own status. 'If you think what I'm doing is bad, how about ...'" motioning as if pointing to another person.

The screening process generally catches people coming into the county just looking for an easy way to get on public assistance, she said.

"People don't find it that easy to just come in and get on assistance in our department," Kirkpatrick said. "If they need help, we're going to help them, but they're going to have to do what they need to do to complete the program."

Which usually means looking for work, getting job-placement assistance, applying for job training and working to get off of public aid.

Contrary to what some may think or wish, evidence of drug abuse doesn't disqualify a person for public assistance, but all applicants are screened for substance abuse. If abuse is suspected, the person is referred to GCASA.

From time to time, a person makes it through the screening process when they shouldn't -- or gets on public assistance and then later starts earning money not originally reported.

For example, a person might start a new business and not report the income.

It's amazing, Kirkpatrick said, what a good Google search might find about a person's attempts to earn disqualifying income. Investigators also check Facebook and Twitter.

And even comments left on The Batavian -- and there have been examples, Kirkpatrick told legislators, of DSS recipients leaving comments on The Batavian that have led to investigations.

One gentleman on assistance set up a web page for his home business, complete with numerous pictures of his work, and was earning a good living making an undisclosed item. When his entreprenuerism was discovered, DSS shut off his assistance.

When a suspected case of fraud is found, assistance is terminated, but recipients have a right to appeal. During the appeal process, payments continue.

While all tips are welcome -- Kirkpatrick reiterated near the end of the meeting -- that just because a woman's millionaire boyfriend moves in, doesn't mean she is no longer eligible for medicaid. That's not fraud, she said. She could even continue to get food stamps if the boyfriend swore he bought and cooked his own food.

It's also not fraud to fail to comply with DSS rules. Rules violations could jeopardize benefits, but is not considered fraud.

Fraud is an intentional attempt to obtain benefits to which the recipient is not entitled, Kirkpatrick said.

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