The Department of Human Resources should have submitted a report on this program to the federal government in mid-September
October 14, 2010 -- Senator Jackie Winters (R-Salem) is calling for answers into what happened to a report that should have been submitted to the federal government on the Money Follows the Person program.
Since September 16, that program has moved 278 seniors and people with disabilities out of nursing homes into community-based settings.
Her demand comes on the heels of a multi-level investigation by the Department of Justice. Since late August, the program’s been halted, impacting Clatsop Care Center District, which had embarked on an $8 million building project and had been assured of $1.8 million in grant funding.
Since 2008, Oregon has drawn down $14.9 million in Medicaid funds and spent $5.5 million from its general fund on Money Follows the Person projects.
While that multi-level investigation continues, James Toews, assistant director of the Seniors and People with Disabilities Division, couldn’t respond to specific questions but did mention there could be “contractor irregularities.”
Testifying before the Emergency Board’s Subcommittee on Human Services in late September, he said, “Our goal is to get information on exactly what happened throughout the entire investigation and who was involved. We’re very concerned about this program and its future, and our goal is to reopen the program very quickly.”
Winters insists that her request won’t damage the ongoing investigation. “That’s a side issue,” she said.
Legislators need to know what happened to the $904,607 in savings and want to know why they were never told about a requirement by the federal government to submit a detailed report on how those funds were re-invested, she said.
“This is very disturbing to me,” said Winters, who’s asked her staff to draft a letter to Dr. Bruce Goldberg, administrator of the Department of Human Services, asking for an investigation. “We need to know what’s happened to these resources, and the status of this report. These are legitimate questions.”
Winters learned about this issue after receiving a copy of a letter from Julia Huddleston who resigned on Aug. 31 as manager of the Money Follows the Person program. “I’d welcome Julia the opportunity to be involved in this investigation,” Winters said
Huddleston came forward after an article appeared in The Oregonian on Sept. 15
linking her to the Clatsop project. The following day, James Toews, asked Huddleston to participate in a name-clearing hearing.
“We must respond to media inquiries concerning the circumstances of your resignation,” according to the letter sent by Toews. “DHS must be accountable to the people of Oregon, and we are committed to fulfilling that obligation.”
Huddleston didn’t hesitate to say how she felt in her reply. Acknowledging her frustration with how the agency was being managed, she reminded Toews about the Sept. 14 deadline to submit a report to federal officials on the program’s savings. “One of the grant requirements is that any money saved is re-invested rather than re-directed into other areas of the DHS budget,” she wrote.
Before leaving the agency, she had worked with a budget analyst who told her there had been “no re-investment dollars set aside.” Several errors had also been made, “by the budget department in reconciling the program’s budget and accounting for grant funds in other ways,” according to her letter. In mid-August, that budget analyst had been reassigned while the report remained unfinished.
Huddleston told Toews that she decided to resign because “I no longer had faith in the leadership of the agency.” Since then, “I am being made the scapegoat for DHS’s sloppy budget practices and disorganized leadership. I have not been charged with any wrongdoing, informed of any grounds to investigate the program or my conduct, or asked to participate in any investigation.” She had been the project director since 2007, designing and implementing the program.
“Over the past three years the program has grown and thrived under my leadership,” she wrote. “My decision to leave the program had nothing to do with the program itself, but rather resulted from my frustration with the way in which SPD (Seniors and People with Disabilities) as a whole is managed.”
Since writing the letter, Huddleston hasn’t been contacted by Toews or anyone from the Department of Justice about its ongoing investigation. “Come on, what are we investigating?” she asked. “How long does an investigation go on? It’s October 13 and I resigned on August 31.”
According to Huddleston, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had notified the agency in January about needing to submit a detailed report on the re-investment savings.
But state officials tell a different story. According to Keely West, media spokesperson for the Department of Human Services, officials only need to show how many people have been served in home and community-based settings.
“The federal term for this type of grant is a rebalance grant; there is no line item to show the savings created by this grant,” she told The Lund Report. The rebalancing fund amount for the first two years of this program is $904,607.
“Oregon used those funds to expand its home and community-based services for individuals with developmental disabilities as well as seniors and people with physical disabilities.
“The agency also is required to show that funds were used to provide additional support services,” she said, “often one-time services that might otherwise not have been funded. Examples of additional services that have been offered were behavioral and peer support services and home modifications to allow consumers to live in the community and to be as independent as possible.”
Why pursue this program when Oregon ranked number one in the lowest nursing home admissions nationwide?
“This is a great Medicaid program,” Toews told The Lund Report. “We have lots of opportunities to purchase things we could never have been able to before. I don’t want to keep this program closed indefinitely. We’ll release the results as quickly as we possibly can.”
Through this grant, the state’s been able to pay for equipment, housing modifications, transition costs, among others -- “things that historically Medicaid never paid for,” he added.
The Money Follows the Person grant began in April 2008 and has been extended through the health reform bill to 2016, which means that Oregon could potentially reap more than $100 million in federal dollars.
Currently the state has $40.7 million in federal funds available. There have been 31.25 positions funded by this grant; seven in the administration office, the remainder in the field.
For More Information
To learn more about the Money Follows the Person program, click here
To learn about the projects that had been planned but are not yet completed, click here. (excel spreadsheet)
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