Commission Discussion Human Services
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
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01:39 PM -- Commission Discussion Human Services
Senator Heath reviewed the agenda for the October 15, 2009 Long Term Fiscal Stability Commission meeting, indicating that each commissioner would be given up to 5 minutes to discuss their perspective on long-term fiscal stability in the state. He then asked representatives of the Department of Human Services (DHS) to discuss their vision of the state's human services system. Representatives from DHS provided a PowerPoint presentation (Attachment H) to the Commission.
Karen Beye, Executive Director of DHS, provided an overview of the services offered by the department. She described the size of the department, consisting of approximately 5,500 state employees, and described how the department contracts with local governments and private entities to offer services. She also described the various services offered by the department, including services for mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse, developmentally disabled individuals, and aging populations (age 60+). She indicated a need for protective services for aging populations, noting that the state does not currently offer such services to this growing demographic.
Ms. Beye continued by discussing the department's state-operated facilities, which include: 11 facilities under the Division of Youth Corrections, one state nursing home, five veterans nursing homes, two mental illness institutions, and vocational rehabilitation offices.
Ms. Beye discussed the vision and mission of the department, describing DHS as the safety-net department for vulnerable individuals. She described department efforts to coordinate services with community partners, including long-term care providers, faith-based organizations, and non-profit organizations. She also discussed the vision of Governor Ritter's administration, which includes increased reliance on community partnerships, and the desire to integrate services between numerous state and local agencies. She discussed the roles of each of the six department management units and current department improvement efforts, including standardized training of caseworkers to ensure competency.
Ms. Beye continued by providing an overview of key caseload statistics. She noted that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamps Program, has grown due to the current recession. SNAP currently serves over 120,000 households.
Will Kugel, Budget Director for DHS, provided a brief overview of the department budget, which currently totals approximately $2.2 billion (11.5 percent of the statewide budget). He noted that the General Fund supports about $900 million of the department budget, including about $230 million from Medicaid funds.
Ms. Beye indicated that the FY 2007-08 budget reflected a "minimal budget" for the department. At FY 2007-08 levels, the department could provide salary increases, improve capital construction projects, and improve the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS). She also noted that a minimal budget would allow for the implementation of anti-recidivism programs.
Ms. Beye described the impact of the current economic recession, which led the department to put some projects on hold, freeze salaries, undergo furloughs, and eliminate entire programs. She also indicated that the recession has lead to caseload increases. She noted that the department made cuts from the least effective programs as well as from programs that were not fully implemented. Cuts were made while ensuring that federal funding under ARRA would not be lost.
Ms. Beye discussed what a fully-funded department might look like, which she defined as a department able to fully and completely serve people at the present time with no waiting lists for services. She also discussed the importance of maintaining transparency and accountability, acknowledging that the department has routinely been cited for not properly overseeing services offered at the county level. She indicated that in the past, the department has been successful in securing grants to fund successful pilot programs to offer some services. However, these programs could not be implemented statewide due to lack of funding. She noted the importance of best practices, and providing funding for the evaluation of programs. Ms. Beye also discussed ways to improve department efficiencies by utilizing technology for record sharing and online application programs.
Mr. Kugel indicated that policy makers must ultimately decide what a "fully funded" department means. He provided cost estimates for eliminating waitlists, supporting caseload increases, and adequately staffing all state facilities. Ms. Beye discussed the costs of maintaining state facilities and shared a number of stories describing deteriorating facilities. She described interest in community partnerships to provide land for additional facilities but lack of state funding to build facilities.
Mr. Kugel discussed the findings of a study which found growing need for services in mental health and substance abuse. Joscelyn Gay, Deputy Executive Director, Office of Behavioral Health and Housing, described how providing these preventative services would reduce costs elsewhere.
Responding to questions from the commission, Ms. Beye and Ms. Gay indicated that Colorado ranks about 36th in mental health services. Ms. Beye discussed the impact of ARRA in funding increased caseloads resulting from the recession (the department has received $26 million in ARRA funds). Jenise May, Deputy Executive Director of Employment and Regulatory Affairs at the department, answered questions about the developmentally disabled population, which grows by approximately 10 percent each year. Ms. Beye responded to questions regarding time limits for the Temporary Assets to Needy Families (TANF) program, noting that individuals are limited to 5 years of participation and most average 36 months.
Ms. Beye provided information on the overlap of DHS services and those offered by other departments. She also discussed services offered to youth and the need for services for populations age 18 to 21.
Commissioner Sean Conway and Ms. Beye discussed the recommendations that emerged from the Child Welfare Action Committee, and how services should be administered. A position paper from Douglas County was provided to the commission regarding the findings of this committee (Attachment I). Ms. Beye expressed that now is a good time to review how services are administered (at the state-, county-, and regional-level) and how services can be improved.
Commissioner Carol Boigon provided the commission a number of talking points about child abuse and services for child welfare (Attachment J). Ms. Beye reiterated the need to look at how services are administered and stressed the importance of accountability. She also noted that the state cannot sanction a county, nor does it have the resources to take over a county program when counties are not adequately providing services.
The commission discussed current, minimal, and ideal funding amounts for the department. Mr. Kugel reported that current General Fund appropriations for FY 2009-10 are budgeted at $670.6 million in General Funds. Minimal funding would be at FY 2007-08 levels ($643 million in General Fund) plus inflationary adjustments. The commission discussed costs associated with fully funding the department, finding that an additional $813 million is needed. Ms. Beye indicated that these additional funds would put the state about average relative to all other states in the U.S.
Senator Heath provided closing comments by thanking the department for presenting to the commission and for the services they provide to Coloradans. He then asked commissioners to give thought to considerations they would like to share with the commission during the October 15, 2009 meeting, and indicated that the commission would need to vote on legislation by November 4, 2009.