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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December 11th, 2014

DFS Cleanup Must Continue

Hopefully the internal whistleblower investigations between employees at the Department of Health and Family Services are finally over, and Commissioner Randy Parker will be able to do the job he was hired to do.

The findings of outside Counsel investigating Parker was just what I said all along – Nothing but a smoke screen.

Although there were allegations against County Attorney Sam Yasgur in recommending the hiring of Richard Graham to do these investigations – he proved right.

Yasgur not only proved critics wrong, but upon investigation, Graham had the independent and respected background throughout New York State to do the job. He is the former President of the New York State County Attorneys Association.

No employee involved in the whistleblower complains appeared to have done anything criminal. Graham did recommend some policy changes including changes to Sullivan County’s whistleblower policy.

Legislator Cindy Kurpil Gieger who is Chair of the Health and Family Services Committee of the legislature told me that “The investigation has concluded and resulted in recommendations to improve policies and procedures many of which we have been working to address. Now it is time to allow the Commissioner and the many hardworking and dedicated employees to continue the job of improving the delivery of services to the vulnerable and to assure the needy receive the benefits that they deserve.”

Many people are getting very rich from Social Service Programs and I am not talking about those receiving public assistance. These people whom are connected to the inner circle “Ole Boys Club” in Sullivan County are vendors and are being hidden behind LLC’s. It is time that the names of these people become public.

Unfortunately – Because Parker and District Attorney Jim Farrell along with his investigation team have been working hard to put an end to fraud, there is a perception being spun by certain individuals that people who deserve public assistance are being turned away or made to feel as if they are criminals.

Last week a letter was read at the Health and Family Services meeting from community advocate Priscilla Bassett which in part said “People applying for social services can already be in a vulnerable state, and the assumption that they are attempting to obtain services for which they are not qualified may deter them from applying. We all want this money to go where it is intended, but we have heard many reports – anecdotal but convincing – that demonstrate a chilling effect that this aggressive enforcement has caused.”

Bassett asked, “What are the Department of Family Services and the legislators doing to overcome this chilling effect and to assure applicants that their requests are met with compassion? “Why not emphasize the help that is given to those who qualify for federal, state and county support in these difficult times? HEAP [Home Energy Assistance Program] and SNAP (food stamps) and WIC [Women, Infants and Children] nutrition support for children and mothers, relief of homelessness that doesn’t just amount to space on a cousin’s couch? We should be proud that our taxes go to protect the vulnerable among us!”

No one wants to see those who need services not get them, but the simple truth is that we have been a county that has been plagued with fraud and has made it too easy to attract people from outside Sullivan County to move here and apply and receive public assistance.

Gieger told me that she is committed to continuing reforms to improve conditions for the most vulnerable. “I am also committed to assuring that those who are eligible get the benefits they are entitled to in a respectful way. Efforts will focus on improving the process with additional staff, employee trainings and addressing call volume and response times upon referrals. While there is much work to be done to improve the system it is vital that services are delivered in the best possible way.”

Discussing improvements made at DFS, Sullivan County Legislator Cora Edwards told me, “Whenever issues have come before us, we have worked diligently to problem-solve in a way that looks at the County’s needs as a whole. With the ‘welfare motels’ for example, we saw that the County was being overcharged for motel rooms that were inadequate for families staying over the long-term. So, County staff first began by negotiating lower rates – then to finding habitable apartments for families at reasonable rents.”

Edwards pointed out that “We went from over 200 people in 14 motels when we started as legislators to now around a dozen people in two motels as emergency shelters (not counting sex offenders who are under police surveillance). Adequate housing is the first rung on the ladder out of the poverty trap.”

She added, “We are also working on re-structuring the way that people find jobs, by having staff from the Center for Workforce Development move to the Liberty complex social service buildings so that there is not a “disconnect” between the Liberty and Monticello offices. We are working with transportation contracts so that people transitioning off benefits can get to jobs, and working with employers on “job-readiness” with prospective employees.”

Edwards said, “All of these efforts amount to a massive undertaking – a seismic shift – in moving the County from a “benefits economy” to a “working economy” and credit should go to the many countless employees in Social Services who are on the front lines doing their jobs to the best of their ability every day.”

I asked Legislator Cindy Kurpil Gieger, Chairperson of Health and Family Services, to discuss some of the Positive Social Service Reforms undertaken in Sullivan County and here is what she had to say:

A few years ago the Sullivan County Legislature embarked on efforts to reform the county Department of Family Services. It had become evident that Sullivan County had become a destination for Medicaid benefits. A culture had evolved where housing the poor had became a business as thousands of Medicaid apartments and shelters became more than temporary placements of the poor and needy.

In October of 2012, the Sullivan County Legislature hired Commissioner Randy Parker to address concerns of fraud, waste, and abuse within the county and to reform the delivery of Social Services to improve conditions for the vulnerable. Sullivan County is moving toward that goal of the delivery of Social Services in a more accountable way to protect our most vulnerable.


* Sullivan County placed an average of 250 homeless individuals in area motels, intended to be temporary housing, sometimes for up to 1-2 years

* Approximately 100 Overdue Child Protective Investigations

* Approximately 2 fraud arrests within a five year period

* Over 60 children in out of county institutions

* Approximately 23 children in county foster homes/ fewer children freed for adoption

* Approximately $ 32 million dollars in uncollected child support payments leaving families dependent on the system

* Over 10,000 Medicaid vendors- largely unverified and lacking any checks and balances


* Only 11 individuals and 0 families currently in area motels – homeless have been connected with their families or placed in managed housing and verified apartments of reputable vendors

* Now increased staffing in the Family Violence Response Team investigating child abuse cases

* Creation of the Sullivan County Fraud Investigative Unit (FIT) with 71 fraud arrests and over 900 active investigations – over $1 million in resource recovery

* Now only approximately 14 children in out of county institutions with remaining children in county closer to their families

* Now approx 100 children in foster care- 14 freed for adoption- a vast improvement in addressing the needs of children to be in a safe environment

* Current Child Support Collections total for years 2013 -2014 for Sullivan County Dept of Family Services equals over $1 million

*New vendor requirements for Medicaid housing shelters providing vital oversight of housing for the homeless

It is recognized that the level of reforms have moved forward with support from the Legislature and the many hard working employees dedicated to improving conditions for our most vulnerable.

The road to improved service delivery for the vulnerable has not been without challenges. Many of the reforms are changing the business of the past to improve conditions for the needy. This has resulted in a number of complaints, allegations, and investigations some focusing on changes within the Division. While complaints must be addressed, we must continue reforms to include reviewing a system of Medicaid reimbursement, which in many instances, has left our homeless and needy in limbo. Sullivan County deserves continuance of these reforms and a firm commitment to improving the situation for all our homeless, poor and vulnerable.

The DFS Cleanup Must Continue!

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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