Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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October 12th, 2012

Dealing with Public Assistance Costs

Sullivan County’s new Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker and his newly appointed Deputy David Sager have a lot of work ahead of them as they attempt to fix a department that has a lot of taxpayers in an uproar.

There is a preconceived notion that it is easier for a person to obtain public assistance in Sullivan County than other parts of New York. We all know by now that the costs of social service programs are forcing us into huge budget deficit.

Legislator Cindy Geiger called a special meeting of Health and Family Services last week to look into potential Medicaid fraud. Joining Geiger and fellow legislators were County Manager David Fanslau, District Attorney Jim Farrell, Sheriff Michael Schiff, Commissioner Parker, Deputy Sager, and department heads and staff.

Senior Family Services Attorney Colleen Cunningham read off a laundry list of things the county was already implementing to combat fraud. In reality, perhaps the county is already doing everything it can.

The number of people moving here and receiving public assistance is troubling to all of us. Medicaid is costing us approximately $1.6 million per month.

We need to find cheaper alternatives to deliver the services Sullivan County is being forced to pay for. Gieger pointed out if there was a policy to distribute only generic drugs over brand names to Medicaid patients we could save a fortune.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the outrageous costs vendors are billing for transporting people on Medicaid. We need more oversight over vendors.

One area that must be changed is housing. It is despicable how Sullivan County is lodging those in need of shelter.
I recently obtained a report detailing the number of motels being utilized to house those on public assistance and the costs taxpayers are shelling out, and it is scary.

With the backing of the county, somehow motel owners went into the business of public housing. What is even more appalling is that no one even protested this as it was happening.

Legislators Cindy Gieger, Cora Edwards and Kitty Vetter recently took a tour with county staff to four motels being utilized for temporary housing. They found that motel owners are raking in a small fortune, with some only accepting NYS temporary housing vouchers, valued at $1400 per month, as payment.

This past June, 310 people were living in rooms intended for visitors. These motel owners should be required to take down their shingle as a prerequisite to receiving a social service contract. It does a disservice to all of us to pretend these facilities are still intended for travelers and tourism.

As the legislature continues to chip away and find some long term solutions, Edwards told me, “There were too many “quick fixes” in the past that created these long-term problems. What we really need to do is address the housing problem directly, and free up our motels for tourism. Other counties have done it and we should, too.”

Geiger said, “We cannot continue to overlook what we the taxpayers are paying out for services. It is time we demand more oversight for our taxpayer dollars.”

Parker assured legislators his department was going to change things under his command. Let’s hope so.

2 comments to Dealing with Public Assistance Costs

  • Kurlander

    Fix your headline

  • Now that’s progress! I was really pleased to read that SC legislators were looking into ways to cut costs in these areas. I had heard from numbers of folks about the outrages prices the county was paying to put people up in these run down hotels here in Sullivan County. If you treat the County government as if it was your own business you will save us taxpayers millions & millions of dollars while still providing for those in need. Thank You!

    Pat Murtagh owner of Pat Murtagh Construction LLC