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Board of Social Services


February 9, 2009


Commissioners’ Conference Room

Second Floor – County Administration Building

10:00 am - Noon





Tom Donnelly, Larimer County Commissioner, District 3

Steve Johnson, Larimer County Commissioner, District 2

Frank Lancaster, Larimer County Manager

Kathy Snell, Director, Larimer County Department of Health & Human Services

Ginny Riley, Director, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Glen Rathgeber, Deputy Director, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Jim Drendel, Division Manager – Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Ed Rutherford, Division Manager – Accounting & Business Operations Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Marsha Ellis, Division Manager – Benefits Planning Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Ruth Long, Division Manager – Adult & Child Supportive Services, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Katy Mason, Program Coordinator – Office on Aging, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Denise Suniga, Deputy Division Manager – Children, Youth & Family Division, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Eileen Brittingham, Executive Assistant, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Alice Williamson, Executive Assistant, Larimer County Department of Human Services

Jeff Green, Risk Manager, Larimer County

Larry Abrahamson, District Attorney, Eighth Judicial District

Randy Ratliff, CEO, Larimer Center for Mental Health

John Rattle, Chief Financial Officer, Northeast Behavioral Health

Delores Williams, Citizen



Call to Order and Introductions


Commissioner Johnson called the meeting to order and asked all attendees to introduce themselves for the listening audience.



Additions to the Agenda


Due to the absence of Commissioner Rennels, Mr. Drendel stated he would be giving the update about the Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee.



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Ms. Riley explained that the quarterly Board of Social Services meeting is considered a work session for the benefit of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and that if action is needed on a particular item, she will return to an Administrative Matters meeting with the BOCC.



Senior Tax Work-Off Program – Katy Mason, Ginny Riley, Jeff Green


Katy Mason, Program Coordinator – Office on Aging, Larimer County Department of Human Services, gave a brief overview about the County’s Senior Citizens’ Property Tax Work-Off Program and explained how the program benefits not only the seniors taking advantage of the program but also how the program benefits the various County departments which employ these seniors.


The program, started in 1981 with a $3,000 annual budget, has grown to a current annual budget of $20,000 which comes from the General Fund. Participants, who are hired as temporary employees, are paid $7.28/hour (minimum wage) and can work off up to $400 of their Larimer County property tax bill. Participants must be 60 years of age or older, own property in Larimer County, reside in that property, and meet certain income guidelines.



Applications are taken one week per year in February; Ms. Mason reviews each application and conducts a brief interview with each applicant to determine that applicant’s particular skill set(s). Placement priority is given to seniors who:

Ÿ    Have the lowest income households

Ÿ    Did not work in the program during the previous year

Ÿ    Did not receive the Homestead Exemption

Ÿ    Are willing to travel to Fort Collins where most job placements are located

Ÿ    Have skills to match work requested by County departments



In response to Commissioner Donnelly’s question about whether priority is given to grandparents raising their grandchildren, Ms. Mason indicated that although it is not a specific priority, seniors 60 years of age or older in this situation may qualify based on income guidelines (i.e., more individuals living in a household).


Commissioner Johnson asked if the $20,000 annual budget in itself limits the number of seniors participating in the program. Ms. Riley agreed this does limit capacity and that the Office on Aging currently subsidizes the tax work-off program and charges very few administrative costs to the program.


Commissioner Johnson asked if all participants earned the $400 maximum. Ms. Mason explained that the Larimer County tax portion of many seniors’ property tax bill may be only $175 or $200, depending on their total tax bill. If so, those seniors would work off only the amount of their Larimer County tax.



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Senior Tax Work-Off Program – Katy Mason, Ginny Riley, Jeff Green (Continued)


In 2008, 76 applications to the program were received; 70 seniors were placed in jobs and worked a total of 2,457 hours in the program. The majority of hours (897) were worked in the Parks & Open Lands Department which offers the most popular jobs in the tax work-off program: manning the visitor center at Carter Lake and working as assistant park rangers at both Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake. In addition, seniors worked 310 hours at the Fairgrounds during 2008.




The program’s value to the County in 2008 is estimated at approximately $31,860.81 [2,456.5 total hours worked x $12.97/hour (hourly rate for the County’s lowest level clerical position) = $31,860.81].



Four issues have been identified with the current tax work-off program:

Ÿ    Increase in minimum wage

Ÿ    Homestead Exemption

Ÿ    Stagnant budget: Program has had the same $20,000 annual funding level for the past 10–12 years

Ÿ    Workers’ Compensation


Commissioner Johnson asked whether County departments were requesting more hours from the program than were able to be filled. Ms. Mason explained that, at times, some departments have particular jobs that she’s unable to fill with seniors with the required skill level. In response to Commissioner Donnelly’s question about program publicity, Ms. Mason explained that she sends out an email message to all County departments prior to the start of the tax work-off season, asking departments to submit their job requests. Because of the limited $20,000 annual budget, there has never been a shortage of jobs or workers.



Ms. Riley reported that an issue arose during the last budget cycle regarding the annual Workers’ Compensation allocation to Human Services. The Workers’ Compensation rates, rating, and performance for Human Services were almost double what Risk Management expected from a department the size of Human Services due to one $45,000 Worker’s Compensation claim filed by a senior tax work-off program participant who fell while working on a boat dock at Horsetooth Reservoir last summer. Although the senior was working for Parks & Open Lands, his claim was charged against Human Services because he was paid through the Human Services payroll department. Risk Management applies experience ratings across the board to all payroll in each County department; because the senior was paid through the Human Services payroll department, his claim affected the Workers’ Compensation experience rating for Human Services.


In response to Commissioner Johnson’s request for an explanation about how the Risk Management fund balance affects department experience ratings, Jeff Green, Director, Risk Management, explained that ratings are set by the National Council based on comparisons of certain types of losses plus performance. In addition, Colorado requires that the County have $1.6 million on hand to pay Workers’ Compensation claims; currently, $1.4 million is allocated across all County departments.



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Senior Tax Work-Off Program – Katy Mason, Ginny Riley, Jeff Green (Continued)


Mr. Green stated that Risk Management is looking for guidance from the County to keep fund balances where they need to be, to lessen the impact the senior tax work-off program has on the Workers’ Compensation allocation to Human Services, and to keep the senior tax work-off program afloat.


Commissioner Johnson stated his opinion that County departments might be more conscientious about safety if Workers’ Compensation claims came out of their budgets and that since the County does payroll, it would make more sense if each department would process timesheets for its senior tax work-off participants. In addition, Commissioner Johnson asked if appropriate program costs, including wages and administrative costs, could be allocated to each department and funds be transferred internally. Mr. Lancaster agreed with Commissioner Johnson that funds should be transferred internally and that Workers’ Compensation costs should be allocated to the appropriate department.



Ms. Riley stated that she would work within these parameters for the next budget year.



Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee – Jim Drendel


Mr. Drendel gave a brief overview of HB1451, an integrated care model which centers services around the child and family rather than around systems. Programs in Hampton, VA, and Olmsted County, MN, are models for full integration, positive outcomes, and safety; Human Services is adopting these models in its practice.


Randy Ratliff, CEO, Larimer Center for Mental Health, and chair of the Larimer County Interagency Oversight Group (LCIOG), explained the membership and role of the LCIOG with its mission statement: To maintain and restore community health, safety, and well being by partnering with families, victims, and communities to provide an integrated, immediate, and efficient continuum of local services for youth, birth to 18.



The LCIOG has partnered with CSU’s Research & Development Center to study current programs and their effectiveness. Goals of the LCIOG are to:

Ÿ    Have zero placement (planning meeting held 11/18/2008)

Ÿ    Restructure current system based on Hampton and Olmsted models

Ÿ    Engage stakeholders in long-term planning and implementation

Ÿ    Evaluate



John Rattle, Chief Financial Officer, Northeast Behavioral Health (NBH), explained that NBH is the Medicaid mental health provider for services in a 12-county region in northern and northeastern Colorado; Larimer County is one of the 12 counties served by NBH and represents 40% of the NBH total contract for mental health services funded by Medicaid. In its support of the HB1451 integrated care model, NBH uses:

Ÿ    Braided funding: NBH works closely with Larimer County for core funding to pay for mental health services

Ÿ    Braided service network: Clients see a seamless system of care while appropriate organizations pay for services

Ÿ    Flexible services: NBH works closely with Larimer County to create more community based services to serve parents and kids



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Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee – Jim Drendel (Continued)


Commissioner Johnson asked whether the CHP+ (Child Health Plan Plus) insurance program became effective when a child lost his/her Medicaid coverage. Mr. Rattle explained that parents must opt in to the CHP+ program, and it may cost parents more than they are willing to pay. Parents may choose to pay a smaller fee to the mental health system for needed mental health benefits rather than paying a larger fee for whole health care coverage.



Larry Abrahamson, District Attorney, Eighth Judicial District, explained that the DA’s Office plays a vital role in the entire effort because kids who need services usually come from the juvenile justice system. The idea of taking kids out of placement or an institution is innovative; most kids can be dealt with using available community resources, and his office supports the HB1451 effort wholeheartedly.



Mr. Drendel explained that in Larimer County, 77% of children are able to remain in their homes instead of going into foster care compared with 68% in the state; however, 99% of children remain in the home in Olmsted County, MN, and 91% remain in the home in Hampton, VA. The emphasis in these programs is that services be put into the home rather than into foster care.



In response to Commissioner Johnson’s question about what other measures Olmsted County and Hampton have in place, Mr. Drendel explained that both measure re-abuse, reunification within 12 months, adoption permanency, and re-entry (coming from foster care back into the home). The integrated model has everyone – school system, DA’s Office, mental health provider, etc. – working together to create a plan with the family.


Olmsted County has put the following practice initiatives in place:

Ÿ    Differential response system: Low-level child abuse does not need to be substantiated in Minnesota; Governor’s Child Welfare Action Committee is recommending that Colorado adopt the differential response system to allow for more flexibility

Ÿ    Partnership based on collaborative practice

Ÿ    Comprehensive, in depth assessment: Minnesota uses a heavy front-end service assessment giving workers more time for moderate and high-risk cases, allowing workers time to create better plans together to help families succeed

Ÿ    Increased family involvement

Ÿ    Early intervention


Balanced assessment of risk is the key; programs need to be flexible to ensure families receive necessary treatment. Larimer County is moving from “knowing” to “doing” – helping one child at a time and using one family assessment planning team.



Child and Family Services Federal Review – Denise Suniga


Ms. Suniga reported that along with Denver County and Fremont County, Larimer County has been selected as one of 3 sites in Colorado to participate in the Child and Family Services Review, a federal audit designed to promote continuous improvement in outcomes for children and families.



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Child and Family Services Federal Review – Denise Suniga (Continued)


Larimer County met the following audit selection criteria:

Ÿ    Inclusion of families

Ÿ    Community partnerships

Ÿ    Self-evaluation: Human Services has an internal quality assurance unit and works closely with CSU’s Research & Development Center


The audit will take place from March 16–20, 2009, at 2573 Midpoint; the Commissioners will be receiving an invitation to a reception on March 17 for the auditors and federal and state staff.


This audit is the second round of the federal audit; no state passed the first audit. In response to Commissioner Johnson’s question about why no state passed the first audit, Mr. Drendel explained that the audit has 26 measurements. If a county is in compliance in 20 areas but out of compliance in 6 areas, then the county is out of compliance in all areas. All counties in the state must pass for the state to pass.


Commissioner Johnson asked what the County’s biggest hindrance to compliance was. Ms. Riley responded that some of the goals and/or benchmarks set by the federal government are difficult and unrealistic; the entire system has not been set up well to meet these goals.



In response to Commissioner Johnson’s question about how cases were picked for review, Ms. Suniga explained that the state randomly picked 17 cases out of the TRAILS system.



Mr. Drendel briefly reviewed the Larimer County House Bill 1451 Plan Memorandum of Understanding Pursuant to House Bill 04-1451. Ms. Riley added that Larimer County may be asking for additional waivers under HB1451 to keep the integrated care model working.



State/Federal Funding and Medicaid Modernization – Ginny Riley


Ms. Riley reported that the original recommendation from the Department of Health Care Policy & Finance (HCPF) was a $900,000 cut to Human Services programs this budget year, but the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) reversed that cut. Currently, a $2 million cut is proposed for next fiscal year. The federal stimulus package may provide some funding for Food Stamps and Medicaid.


The Commissioners’ Office may receive more complaints from clients who believe they are not receiving timely responses to their questions/applications. 70%–80% of calls to the Benefits Information Center (BIC) are resolved during the first call, but clients may be on hold for 20 minutes before their calls are answered. An additional line and more staff have been added to the BIC to help resolve the wait, and Human Services is responding to email requests. However, as workloads increase and it becomes more difficult for staff to keep up with demands, Human Services is concerned about stress for both clients and staff.



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There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:35 am by Commissioner Johnson.



Respectfully submitted,


Alice Williamson

Executive Assistant

Human Services


Background Image: Dowdy Lake Sunset by John Bartholow. All rights reserved.