Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Social Services’ Category

WA: one in five social programs checked don’t pencil out

by Matt Rosenberg April 17th, 2012

A new report from the Washington legislature’s non-partisan policy analysis unit, the Washington State Institute For Public Policy, finds that of 98 programs recently reviewed for what researchers liken to an investment advisor’s “buy-sell” list, 79 pass muster financially, with measured per-participant financial benefits to the state which exceed costs; but 19 do not. Another 45 which are identified, haven’t been recently evaluated for cost effectiveness, the report says. Of the new results in the April 2012 report – titled “Return On Investment: Evidence-Based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes” – the so-called “net present value” (benefits to the state per participant minus costs) was highest for a series of juvenile justice and adult criminal justice programs, and lowest for a sub-group of child and teen prevention and preK-12 education programs including Early Head Start and Even Start.

U.S. out of Afghanistan, WA senate committee urges Obama

by Matt Rosenberg February 6th, 2012

Fueled by a parade of proponents who testified at a public hearing in Olympia Friday, legislation is beginning to work its way toward a possible vote on the floor of the Washington State Senate that urges President Barack Obama and the Congress to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, and help the state accent domestic priorities instead. Senate Joint Memorial 8014, similar to a resolution, says the President and the U.S. House and Senate should end the war in Afghanistan and begin “dramatically shifting our national priorities” by focusing on job creation; more money for social programs, public services and crumbling transportation systems; and addressing climate change.

DSHS ethics woes continue

by Matt Rosenberg January 13th, 2012

Following at least five other documented cases of ethical or major administrative missteps in the last 10 months and two more being investigated, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services is in the spotlight again, for possible employee misconduct. In a whistleblower report stemming from an internal complaint and issued this week, the State Auditor’s Office finds that a budget analyst in the agency’s Economic Services Administration – identified by officials as Sally Barber – may have improperly used state resources to conduct personal business. Although according to the report Barber told investigators she didn’t handle business related to her four rental properties during work hours, a forensic audit of her work computer’s hard drive showed 119 visits to sites that “appear to pertain” to her property rental business. Additionally, 19 files or images were recovered from her hard drive related to her business including “a checklist for cleaning a triplex,” an amortization chart, a lease agreement and “a document related to marketing a home for sale.” The whistleblower report concludes there is “reasonable cause to  believe an improper governmental action occurred when the subject used her work computer to conduct her rental property business.” As with all such findings by the State Auditor, the case will be forwarded to the Washington State Executive Ethics Board for review and possible sanctions.

It’s not the first time in the recent past that DSHS has found itself in ethical hot water. Allegations of employees doing personal business on the job at DSHS have been a familiar theme. Three have been fined by the state ethics board and two more face possible sanctions. Other cases have involved a signed admission by a DSHS nursing assistant of sexual abuse of a developmentally disabled client, and over-billing by DSHS of Medicaid for more than $8 million.

11-fold hike in emergency room visits related to energy drinks

by Leif Hansen December 6th, 2011

Despite a Washington state ban and tough federal enforcement against energy drinks containing alcohol, alcohol-free energy drinks with up to five times the caffeine blast of a cup of coffee pose growing public health concerns. According to a new study published in late November by an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, emergency department visits related to alcohol-free energy drinks – consumed alone and sometimes with other substances – were 11.6 times greater in 2009 than in 2005. Energy drink-related emergency visits grew in number from 1,128 in 2005; to 3,126 in 2006; 10,052 in 2007; 16,053 in 2008, and 13,114 in 2009, the most recent year for which data were available.

State ethics sanctions for four DSHS workers

by Matt Rosenberg November 22nd, 2011

The Washington State Executive Ethics Board has finalized disciplinary sanctions in four cases involving employees of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services who broke state law by conducting private business at work, or in one case, by using their official state employee and agency status in a political TV ad without a necessary disclaimer. At its meeting last Friday the board signed four so-called “stipulation” documents – essentially settlements in place of civil court proceedings – which had already been signed by the employees, setting fine amounts or taking other steps.

More self-dealing alleged at Seattle Indian Services Commission

by Matt Rosenberg November 9th, 2011

The troubled Seattle Indian Services Commission, already in the process of being stripped of ownership of its adjoining properties on 12th Ave. S. by the city in King County Superior Court, is now under fire in a newly-released state audit because former staffers reportedly diverted $73,943 for questionable purposes. This comes after previous state and city audits criticized the commission for awarding contracts to immediate family members of top staff, and for allowing a board member’s husband and son-in-law to also be appointed to the board.

Audit: state could save millions by reducing snail mail

by Matt Rosenberg November 2nd, 2011

A performance audit released Tuesday says four large State of Washington agencies that were examined spent almost $10 million dollars last year for un-required bulk mailings. The report from Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag’s office stops short of saying all the questioned mailings shouldn’t have been done, noting that there are times when for the sake of customer preferences, or because of limited access to technology for some stakeholders, when agencies may determine snail mail is the best option. Nonetheless, the audit said, state government has begun to find ways to save taxpayer funds by handling more business without postal service, and needs to step up such efforts further.

Seattle eyes transfer of troubled Indian services properties to non-profit

by Matt Rosenberg September 26th, 2011

SUMMARY: A public development authority formed by the City of Seattle in 1972 called the Seattle Indian Services Commission, which has been the subject of several critical city and state audits in recent years, now appears unable to continue to service the $6 million bond debt for its two adjacent properties on 12th Ave. S. in the International District, or to repair an estimated $2.5 million in water damages to one of the buildings, built in 1995. The commission’s primary tenant and sole source of debt service revenue is the non-profit Seattle Indian Health Board, and it says it intends to move out unless the Commission conveys title for the properties to the board, which has pledged to assume the debt and fix the water damage. The Commission has refused to approve this offer, so the city council has prepared an ordinance, to be discussed and possibly voted on in committee September 28, authorizing the City Attorney to seek permission in King County Superior Court to impose a trusteeship on the Indian Services Commission which would trigger a title transfer of the properties to the non-profit Indian Health Board. The resolution states this will allow for current services and programs to continue to be provided to Seattle’s Native American community. Sponsor of the resolution is City Council Member Nick Licata.