Human Services Receives Significant Extension in Federal Timing to Develop Integrated Eligibility System
Human Services Commissioner Christopher Finch received notice on Tuesday from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services of an extension deadline to 2018 to complete development of an integrated program eligibility and enrollment system for Medicaid and other applicable programs with 90 percent funding support.
Facing a federal mandate to implement a new integrated eligibility and enrollment system by December 31, 2015, Human Services has been rushing through a complex procurement of four applications for federal funding and four requests for proposal to vendors to build the software. Completion of the project would ensure 90 percent federal monetary support; but the estimated timetable to complete a project of this magnitude is at least two years which would require the department to shoulder a greater portion of the project cost if it missed the 2015 deadline. The CMS three year extension makes it viable to complete the development of the system with 90 percent federal support and allow for other programs to be integrated including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Childcare services and Head Start enrollment. With receipt of the news Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. commented "The recent build out and development extension deadline is most welcomed by my Administration. From the inception of the President's healthcare reform initiatives we have diligently tried to ensure that the territory maximizes all Medicaid related financial and capital systems improvements available under these initiatives. The ability for our Medicaid program to fund this project with only a 10% local match investment from our general fund ensures that residents will benefit from a "one stop shopping" experience while limiting the burden on our local financial resource."
Commissioner Finch said “This is incredibly great news. This extension takes the pressure off the department to create an integrated system, and off the software developers to complete the project in too short a time.” The commissioner will participate in a conference call with CMS next week to further discuss the new regulations.
Virgin Islands Continues National Effort Toward Serving the Homeless
The seventh Project Homeless Connect will begin on St. Croix on Friday, October 10th spearheaded by the Department of Human Services, United Way of St. Thomas/St. John, the nonprofit agencies providing services to the homeless, and the Inter-Agency Council on Homelessness. The events will continue on Friday, October 17th at the Human Services Complex in Cruz Bay, St. John and on Friday, October 24th at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas. All events will take place from 9am to 3pm.
This massive all day affair will be a one-stop one-shop service area for the homeless to receive needed assistance and practical support. Additionally, family members whose loved ones are unsheltered or transitionally homeless are urged to attend and get information. A host of non-profit organizations, private businesses and government entities, will offer a myriad of services ranging from medical care to legal advice as well as free showers, give-away bags, food and clothing to the homeless.
Volunteers are needed to facilitate the event as escorts, guides, greeters, and in food services. Each client is paired with an ‘escort’ to guide them through the maze of services. Volunteers on St. Thomas and St. John are welcome to register with the United Way St. Thomas/St. John at 774-3185 or the Department of Human Services at 774-0930 ext 4104/4109 and online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers on St. Croix are welcome to register with the Office of the Governor at 773-1404.
New developments have contributed to the long-term success of Project Homeless Connect one of which is the Permanent Supportive Housing initiative. The PSH is set to begin in October this year through a grant award issued to Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands from the Department of Human Services. The program will provide housing and supportive social services for 40 chronically homeless clients on St. Thomas until they are sufficiently independent. A third expansion of Medicaid this year will extend benefits to persons who are not pregnant and who are childless, a population that includes the homeless.
Project Homeless Connect is a national effort that has been adopted by non-profit organizations to solicit community volunteerism to assist the homeless by giving them a ‘Day of Caring’ and act as a stepping stone to end homelessness. These community initiatives has a twofold goal, namely 1) to temporarily meet the needs of hundreds of homeless persons whether they are in a crowded living situation or living by desolate means and 2) to provide follow-up care by connecting clients to services and programs.
SNAP Recipients Receive Increase in Benefits
The Department of Human Services advises all recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of an increase in benefits in accordance to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) as of October 1st. The increase will be automatically added to the Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
Beneficiaries of SNAP are reminded that the EBT card is approved for food purchases only, not in exchange for cash from grocers nor can it be issued to a friend or family for cash. Abuse of SNAP benefits may result in repayment, forfeiture of benefits, removal from program and/or criminal prosecution.
Human Services and Catholic Charities in Final Stages of Contemporary Homelessness Program
A project to permanently house 40 chronically homeless persons on St. Thomas is set to begin in October this year through a grant award issued to Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands from the Department of Human Services.
Human Services created a grant for $950,000 and issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for non-profits to vie for the opportunity to manage the Permanent Supportive Housing program which would provide housing and supportive social services for 40 chronically homeless clients on St. Thomas until they are sufficiently independent. Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands won the grant. Human Services commissioner Christopher Finch stated “Permanent Supportive Housing is a program approach that is working across the United States in large and small communities. We [DHS] are thrilled to be able to pilot it in the VI and hope that if successful we can expand territory wide. I am confident Catholic Charities will do an excellent job in implementing this program.”
The Assertive Community Treatment team is essential to the PSH. Treatment Team members will work closely with each client to help them adapt to living in an apartment while providing mainstream services, assistance with finding employment and medical care. Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands is reviewing a dozen resumes in preparation for interviews next week for all positions of ACT team including social work, housing, case management, program coordination, and mental health and substance abuse. The ACT team will also determine client eligibility for financial assistance, veterans and social security benefits, and pensions. Michael Akin Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands anticipates the positive effect of the PSH on the community. “With the success of this program we will see fewer street homeless and an overall healthy community.”
Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands is also in search of housing units specifically efficiencies and studio apartments. The organization will lease from the landlord and as the clients become increasingly independent they will accept responsibility for maintaining housing with limited supportive services. Approximately one third of the client income will be applied toward the rent. Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. reacted to the development of the program with promise. “The Permanent Supportive Housing project proves the issue of homelessness in the territory can be resolved through public and private partnership as efforts to meet the direst needs continue.”
Human Services St. Croix Phone Lines Down
The Department of Human Services main office number at Golden Rock 773-2323 is temporarily out of service due to a power outage. The Department is promptly working to rectify the problem, and public notice will be issued once the phone lines are operable. The office numbers at the Vitraco building in Golden Rock 718-2980 and 718-2983 can be used in the interim.
The public is asked to exercise patience with the Department while efforts are being made to quickly resolve the problem. Management and staff apologize for any inconvenience.
SNAP Recipients Receive Medical Assistance
The Department of Human Services has issued written notices on Monday to approximately 3,000 beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) territory-wide who are eligible for the Medical Assistance Program. The department has aggressively solicited federal support from the highest level of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to allow SNAP eligibility rules to be used for determining Medicaid eligibility.
In this second phase of MAP expansion Human Services staff worked overtime to manually stuff envelopes with the notices which were issued via airmail. SNAP recipients who receive a notice are asked to 1) carefully read the information as it pertains to eligibility; 2) complete the enclosed application; and 3) return by August 31st 2014 to DHS in the stamped envelope provided. Applications were sent to 1,303 individuals in the St. Thomas/St. John districts, on St. Croix 937 were sent in Christiansted, and 877 in Frederiksted.
The VI Government has maintained a trend of widening its reach to the neediest population through MAP to provide general access to free healthcare. The first phase of expansion in October 2013 extended services to pregnant women and children. In January this year, the VI Government was deemed eligible to receive a 2.2 percent ($440,000) funding increase from CMS to further expand MAP per stipulations in the Affordable Care Act. The increase was awarded after Human Services successfully demonstrated how the territory provided health benefits coverage since 2010 to all residents, including childless adults on the territorial poverty level who received services at local health clinics and hospitals. The VI Government recently received approval from CMS through an amendment to the Medicaid State Plan to offer coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatment to uninsured women.
The effort to reach more of the population will continue through 2014. The third expansion will include persons ages 18 -26 who have aged out of foster care, and the fourth expansion will serve childless adults. Commissioner of Human Services Christopher Finch expressed his enthusiasm about the public outreach and encourages all recipients of the MAP letter to return it to the department as soon as possible. “I thank the Human Services staff and management for their hard work on this project which may reduce the number of uninsured persons by 10percent and bring healthcare security to over 1800 families.”
Medical Assistance Program to Now Include Coverage for Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment
The Department of Human Services Medical Assistance Program will now provide coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatment to uninsured women.
The VI Government recently received approval to offer coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatment to uninsured women from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) through an amendment to the Medicaid State Plan. The plan acts as a contract between the VI government and the federal government pertaining to management and operation(s) of MAP in the territory. Applicants are not required to prove income or assets, but must verify U.S. citizenship and VI residency, age (below 65), uninsured, and diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer at a Centers for Disease Control approved site-the nearest of which is in Puerto Rico. Women who have tested positive for breast or cervical cancer at the Department of Health clinics- the Frederiksted Health Center on St. Croix or the East End Medical Center on St. Thomas must have their diagnosis confirmed at the CDC site and return to the VI for treatment. Air travel will be provided through MAP.
In response to the recent news Commissioner Finch said, “Breast and cervical cancers are the most common types of cancer found among women in the Territory, and I’m thrilled that we now have the resources in Medicaid to provide health care coverage for those affected who are uninsured.” Human Services is scheduled to work with consultants in the next few weeks to finalize the operational and application process. In the interim, interested persons are asked to contact the MAP office at 715-6929 on St. Thomas and 773-1311 on St. Croix.
Human Services Opens viNGN Public Computer Center
Senior Citizens on St. Thomas will now have access to digital technology thanks to the VI Next Generation Network (viNGN). A grand opening of a Public Community Center (PCC) at the Human Services Knud Hansen Complex is scheduled for Thursday, June 26th at 11am.
The center is outfitted with eight computers including equipment compliant with American Disability Act (ADA) standards. Yvonne Fenton, Program Manager for viNGN applauded the department for their partnership in opening the center “On behalf of viNGN, let me just say that we are so pleased to open this brand new Public Computer Center at The Department of Human Services offices in St. Thomas. I would like to thank Commissioner Chris Finch, and all of the members of his team that helped to make this day possible.”
Seniors who attend the DHS social recreation center and those in the community will be offered free training courses in “digital literacy”. The free online course will be available at www.vingn.com; and seniors who complete the course will receive a certificate of completion and have access to more than 5,000+ training courses available through their partnership with CyberLearning Inc., and the National Education Foundation (NEF). “I hope that the public makes good use of this center, and that they sign-up for viNGN’s Digital Literacy Course,” Fenton said.
Staff and management of Human Services Division of Senior Citizens Affairs and seniors who attend the senior center will attend the opening. “The cause of viNGN is to help make the Virgin Islands a better place thanks to the many benefits that our many projects, technology, infrastructure, and broadband contribute to these United States Virgin Islands,” Fenton said.
Human Services Poised to Receive Federal Dollars to Continue MAP Expansion
The Department of Human Services is eligible to receive a 2.2 percent funding increase from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to further expand the Medical Assistance Program (MAP) per stipulations in the Affordable Care Act. The VI government complied with the federal requirement for eligibility by successfully demonstrating how the territory provided health benefits coverage since 2010 to all residents including childless adults on the territorial poverty level who received services at local health clinics and hospitals.
The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) of 2.2 percentage points is a temporary increase to 57.20 percent federal share which will be applied through December 31, 2015 to MAP expenses. Increased spending allows for greater savings to the territory. For example, if $1million were spent through MAP under the current match of 55.00 percent, the federal contribution would be $550,000 and the local match would be $450,000. With the increase, the federal contribution would be $572,000 and the local match would be $428,000. With anticipated annual Medicaid expenses of $20 million, savings to VI government would be $440,000.
The VI government is also eligible for enhanced match to cover Medicaid benefits to a new population comprising of nonpregnant, childless adults – including the homeless - who were not covered prior to the Affordable Care Act. Human Services intends to cover this group in planned Medicaid expansion over the next few months. CMS will initially pay 78 percent of the cost to expand MAP to this new population and will increase their share to 90 percent by the year 2019.
Human Services Commissioner Christopher Finch was encouraged by the news. “Although the 2.2 percent is a modest increase, it’s a step in the right direction. The federal share of 78 percent for childless adults is indeed exciting news. I want to thank the staff at Human Services, Government House and the consultants at Mercer Health and Benefits as well as the staff of the Region II CMS office who all worked on this project” he said.
Through use of the recently implemented Medicaid Management Information System, claims for this new population can be accurately identified.
Basic Digital Literacy Courses deadline extended to February 28.
Basic Digital Literacy Course – Please visit the web link to find out more, and attached is a flyer with information about Digital Literacy Coaching which I do offer at this Public Computer Center (at the Turnbull Library). There is a list of PCCs on our web site; there are more than 20. While the flyer says 10am and 3pm, I offer it all day. I am here 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, and this PCC is closed daily 1-2pm for my lunch break. Passing this course earns a certificate backed by SUNY Potsdam and access to 5,000+ higher-level professional and IT courses, still free. U.S. Virgin Islands Residents only. – deadline has been extended to Feb 28.
Digital Learning Day – This is a national initiative which viNGN decided to support and on that date we will encourage everyone to visit our blog to obtain a list of great digital learning resources both local and worldwide. At the same time we take the opportunity to encourage our patrons to take and pass the Basic Digital Literacy course – deadline has been extended to Feb 28.
Hour of Code - Learn how to think like a programmer! Over 15 million in 170 countries did the 2013 “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9-13 2013). Together, we made history and broke records. The Hour of Code has become the fastest-spreading technology in history. The top question at Code.org: "Will you keep the tutorials available?" The answer is a resounding "Yes, and they will remain free." Visit www.code.org to learn computer programming with the Hour of Code. Anyone can learn! Those who visit this PCC can take it under my supervision and I can create a certificate for the tutorial here – it will be sent to them via email, so if they don’t have a working email address, I can use mine, and forward as they desire.
Human Services Medical Assistance Public Notice
The Department of Human Services Medical Assistance Program hereby provides notice of its intent to amend the Medicaid State Plan to add coverage for uninsured individuals with a diagnosis of Breast or Cervical Cancer when that diagnosis is confirmed by a testing site funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In order to qualify for Medicaid as member of this new coverage group, the applicant must:
- Be a United States citizen
- Be a resident of the United States Virgin Islands
- Be diagnosed with either Breast or Cervical Cancer at a CDC-funded site
- Be uninsured
- Be less than 65 years of age
There is no income or asset test for this eligibility category.
At the present time, there is no CDC-funded test site in the United States Virgin Islands. However, cancer screening services are provided by the clinics operated by the Department of Health, the Federally Qualified Health Centers (Frederiksted Health Center and St. Thomas East End Medical Center). Under the proposed State Plan Amendment it is the intent of Human Services MAP to provide free transportation to San Juan, Puerto Rico where there is a CDC-funded site for all those individuals who meet the criteria listed above and who have previously received a positive result from a cancer screening site located in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Human Services is proposing an effective date of April 1, 2014 for this Amendment subject to approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This notice is provided in order to comply with the requirements set forth at 42 CFR 447.205 and 1902(a)(13) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1396a(a)(13).
Human Services Prepares for Delay of SNAP Services in November due to Federal Shutdown
Clients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may not see their benefits on November 1st if the federal shutdown persists. Benefits can be issued a few days later once federal appropriations are made.
The US Food and Nutrition Service issued a directive to all states and territories to not process benefits for November unless the federal government reopens or special plans for SNAP are realized. The Department of Human Services serves approximately 28,000 people through SNAP at a cost of $4.93million annually. The Department will continue to issue SNAP benefits through October and will proceed as directives are given from the US FNS.
If a resolution to the federal shutdown is realized soon, normal benefits may be issued in November. Although this circumstance is beyond the control of Human Services, sincere apologies are extended to clients for any inconvenience.
Human Services 2013 Block Grant Application Available for Review
The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services hereby informs the Virgin Islands community of its intention to submit an application to the United States Department of Health & Human Services for a continuation Consolidated Block Grant as Authorized by the Omnibus Territories Act as amended 48 U.S.C. 1469 a.
Copies of the Consolidated Block Grant and its intended use of funds for fiscal year 2013 under the Consolidated Grant Award will be available to the public for review beginning August 13, 2012 and comment through to August 27, 2012, at the Office of the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services Knud Hansen Complex, St. John Multi-Purpose Center, the Golden Rock site on St. Croix, and the through the V.I. Department of Human Services’ website at http://www.dhs.gov.vi.
DHS Continues Advancing Toward Reorganization of Child Welfare Program.
Today marked the end of a two day training session conducted by The Department of Human Services to embark on the next phase in improving the child welfare system. Representatives from the Children's Bureau National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement/Training and Technical Assistance Network (NRCOI) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services met with Department staff as well as stakeholders who work closely with all facets of child welfare services on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Less than six months ago Department officials invited the NRC to assist in implementing strategies to perform best practices in working with children, youth and families who enter the child welfare system. Today, the training sessions narrowed the exhaustive list of options to revamp the child welfare system to five practical strategies-three of which were targeted first. Examined were the development of a child welfare practice model which offers consistency in services; establishing a child welfare information management system; developing a recruitment and retention plan for foster parents; establishing a child welfare training program for social workers; and creating Territory-wide subsidized guardianship program.
Participants developed groups to target three primary strategies including developing permanent and stable living situations for foster children, ensuring continuity of family relationships, and assisting parents with skills needed to maintain a healthy family environment. These groups will meet regularly and with NRC representatives for additional support.
NRC provides technical assistance in this effort as well as expanding knowledge, increasing competencies, and changing attitudes of child welfare professionals at all levels. Participating stakeholders included Lutheran Social Services, VI Behavioral Services, the Disabilities Rights Center, Beyond Visions, the St. Thomas Healthcare Adolescent Program, Family Resource Center, Department of Education, Division of Mental Health, Work Able, Inc., Nana Baby Home, the University of the Virgin Islands Social Science Division, private attorneys, and retired social workers.
6-23 and 6-24 DHS Hosts Public Hearing on Childcare State Plan
The Department of Human Services Office of Childcare and Regulatory Services, invites the public to a hearing to provide comment and ask questions about the 2009-2011 Child Care Biennial State Plan.
The first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23rd at the STRIVE Senior Center of the Human Services Knud Hansen Complex. The second meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24th at the Human Services Golden Rock lobby. Both meetings will begin at 6pm.
Copies of the State Plan are on reserve, in both districts, at the public library, the University of the Virgin Islands Library, And the Office of Child Care and Regulatory Services. An additional copy is also available at the Human Services administrative office on St. John.
Human Services Joins Department of Education to Assist Children with Disabilities
St. Thomas— The Department of Human Services will partner with the Department of Education to provide free screenings in speech, hearing, and development for pre-school aged children.
‘Child Find’ enables parents who are concerned about their child’s development to be screened by certified therapists.This territory-wide search for children with disabilities takes place twice annually, and is sponsored by the Department of Education to service children in the Territory.
The Department of Human Services benefits from this effort to enroll children into the Head Start Program which provides services to children with disabilities from ages 3 through 5.
The screenings will take place on Friday, May 15th from 9am-1pm at the Curriculum Center in Tutu across from the 7th Day Adventist Church.
For more information contact 774-5370 Masikia Lewis or 774-4399 Daphne Dawson
Human Services and Local Banks Fight Against Financial Abuse of
Senior Citizens and Dependent Adults
St. Thomas-The Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services (APS) program held today the first of several intended seminars with financial institutions, in an effort to make a collaborative stance against senior and dependent adult abuse.
Human Services APS management and social work staff explained the rise of financial exploitation of senior citizens and dependent adults. Detailed presentations on fiduciary abuse empowered attendees to take needed steps to report any suspicion of fiscal mismanagement by caregivers and family of seniors or dependent adults.
Financial representatives were advised to be aware of activities by seniors or dependent adults including 1) transferring large accounts or property to other family members, 2) applying for a loan without concrete reason(s), 3) withdrawing significant amounts of money from an account or 4) adding a seemingly eager caregiver/family member as a consignee to their account.
May is Senior and Dependent Adult Abuse Prevention Month. On Tuesday, May 19th APS will host Senior Citizens Information Day where trained legal counsel on senior affairs will be available for consultations. The event will take place at the TuTu Park mall from 10:30 through 2pm. A conference to form a coalition with key government, private, and non-profit agencies against senior and dependent abuse is also scheduled for June.
The APS investigates reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation of senior citizens aged 60 and over as well as incapacitated/dependent adults over 18 years of age who may have a myriad of physical and mental impairments.
Travel Bags for VI Foster Children from Novo Nordisk
St. Thomas-The Department of Human Services will receive 200 travel duffle bags for the Territory’s foster children from Denmark based healthcare company Novo Nordisk.
On Wednesday, March 11th at 10:30am Novo Nordisk International Diabetes Care Specialist Margaret Walton, will officially donate the duffle bags to administrators of the DHS Children and Families Unit at the Knud Hansen complex. The bags will be filled with pajamas, toiletries, school supplies, cameras and photo albums.
The relationship between DHS and Novo Nordisk began when Walton visited the VI in 2008 to make a presentation on Diabetes at the Schneider Regional Medical Center. Walton was referred to the DHS Children and Family Unit after expressing an interest in reaching out to children.
Novo Nordisk manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products specializing in Diabetes care and other related diseases. Information can be found at www.novonordisk.com.
The Department of Labor announces the availability of the State Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan Jr. and Human Services Commissioner Chris Finch, wishes to inform the general public of the availability of the State Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) Plan for public review and comments.
The plan is currently available in hard copy at the Department of Labor One Stop Offices located at 53A, 54A&B Kronprindsens Gade in St. Thomas and #2203 Church Street Christiansted in St. Croix; at the Department of Human Services Offices located at Knud Hansen Complex, Bldg. A in St. Thomas and #3011 Golden Rock, Christiansted in St. Croix; the University of the Virgin Islands campuses and all Public Libraries throughout the Territory.
The Plan is also available electronically at www.vidol.gov