Adult protective referrals on rise

JOHNSTOWN — Adult protective referrals are on the rise in Fulton County, according to the county Department of Social Services’ annual report.

DSS Commissioner Anne Solar recently made the report available to the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee.

The report indicates that DSS’s Adult and Long Term Care Unit has seen an increase in adult protective referrals, from 207 in 2017 to 223 in 2018.

“Adult protective referrals have increased during the past year, bringing them to the highest level in six years,” the report said. “The increase is believed to be the result of more public awareness, lack of resources and a general lack of knowledge about what to do with the vulnerable and needy population in Fulton County.”

The report also pointed out what it said was a “notable spike” in long-term care referrals compared with 2015. Figures showed that those referrals were at 234 that year, with numbers going down from 285 in 2016 to 274 in 2017, only to go back up to 295 for 2018.

DSS officials say many long-term cases transitioned to managed care over a year ago, but this hasn’t eliminated these cases from the Adult and Long Term Care Unit. Unit workers “find themselves helping” the managed care population with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid applications, recertifications and housing applications because there’s no one else able or willing to help, the report said.

The report said the unit has also seen an increase in “dually-served” cases — cases in which both the parent/caregiver/grandparent and that person’s adult or minor child have impairments requiring unit services.

Other highlights of the report noted that the caseworker turnover in Child Protective Services was so high that only three of 12 caseworkers in the unit were there for an entire year.

The Gloversville Enlarged School District approached DSS to reinstate the School Intervention Partnership Program. A DSS caseworker stationed at school provides preventive services to identified junior and senior high school students at risk of placement.

DSS began engaging SNAP only recipients in employment and training activities.

“The Employment Unit staff identified appropriate individuals who were then required to participate in an orientation/assessment group,” the report said. “From there, they would continue job searching, participate in job readiness training or other appropriate activities that will lead to employment.”

The department’s largest program, Medicaid, continued to generally decline in 2017 and 2018. But the report said that for the first time since 2013, the Medicaid caseload in Fulton County actually increased. By the end of 2018, the Medicaid caseload surpassed its August low by 22 cases. The decline in local Medicaid numbers, however, doesn’t necessarily reflect a decrease in the number of county residents on Medicaid.

“Many recipient cases are now handled through the New York State Health Exchange,” the report said. “As of the most recently issued New York state statistics (for August 2018), the health exchange handled over twice the number than the local [DSS] agency, 11,346 vs. 5,073. The local district continues to handle the more complex cases, while the state is involved in the more routine certifications.”

On the administration side, the report notes former DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper issued a 2018 department budget with a $1.7 million decrease in program and administrative costs — not including payroll — from the previous year.

DSS reviewed Social Security Administration guidelines, trained selected services staff on foster care requirements and developed an internal policy. Several Accounting Unit accomplishments were listed in the report, including reconciliation of three years in a Medicaid spenddown account.

At the urging of Fulton County Family Court, DSS developed a contract to drug test parents alleged to have abused or neglected their children due to drug abuse.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.