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St. Thomas- The Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services chaired by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, held a meeting on Friday, at the Capitol Building to receive testimony from officials from the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) on the Youth Rehabilitation Center (YRC), V.I. Medical Assistance Program (MAP), Contractual Obligations and other topics.

The Youth Rehabilitation Center and the Division of Juvenile Justice has suffered structural damages to the building after the occurrence of Hurricane Irma and Maria. There are on-going efforts to secure contractors to fix the kitchen, air conditioning units, and the YRC Annex also needs to be repaired. The buildings are located in a flood zone. Therefore, flooding is a major challenge when there are heavy rains stated Commissioner of VIDHS Felecia Blyden. “The government needs to do a better job at thoroughly inspecting buildings prior to making a purchase,” said Sen. Sammuel Sanes.

In a line of questioning, Sen. O’Reilly inquired of the accuracy of limited food/water, cleaning supplies, working generator, money owed to generator contractor and if there is an emergency plan for residents at YRC. DHS Deputy Commissioner Rashida Daniels stated that there are adequate meals provided for residents, the generator is not functional, monies are owed to the contractor and YRC has an emergency plan that needs to be updated.

“Are there rehabilitating programs for residents at YRC?” asked Sen. Janelle Sarauw. In response, Daniels stated that massive personnel are needed to work in the Treatment Division to implement holistic treatments offered to residents. However, YRC is currently understaffed. Sen. Sarauw stated that rehabilitation is necessary for young people and DHS should outsource vendors to assist with the program.

In addition to YRC, Commissioner Blyden also shared the post-hurricanes MAP update. The Bipartisan Budget Act was signed into law on February 9, 2018, by President Donald Trump. This removed the local matching funds of 45% for MAP that is now covered 100% by the Federal Government. Temporarily, it became the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) and will remain in effect until September 2109. This law enables the MAP to process weekly payment cycles. To Streamline the Provider Enrollment Unit, there will be a reduction in the enrollment process for provider applications.

“Can you expound on the plans to assist Virgin Islanders to enroll in MAP?” inquired Sen. Marvin Blyden. Director of MAP Gary Smith said, “The Department is working towards placing outstation workers at all hospitals and Federally Qualified Centers Territory-wide. The workers will assist new enrollees and existing members with various services.” The projected start date is April 2018 added Commissioner Blyden.

Separately, lawmakers were updated on the contractual obligations, presumptive eligibility, and V.I. Benefits Enrollment System.

Currently, there are 42 contracts administered to programs at DHS. The breakdown of the contracts are as follows: Office of Residential Services, the Division of Family Assistance, Medical Assistance Program and Division of Senior Citizens Affairs. The Presumptive Eligibility process at Federally Qualified Health Centers is scheduled to begin in April 2018. Staff training is necessary to ensure a smooth enrollment process. Staff training will occur mid-April 2018. The major challenge for the V.I. Benefits Enrollment System is connectivity between the Local Area Network and the Cloud. The Commissioner stated that the Bureau of Information Technology advised VIDHS to operate only from the Cloud because data is secured there.

Senators present are Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Janelle Sarauw, Dwayne DeGraff, Kurt Vialet, Sammuel Sanes, Novelle Francis, and Sen. Marvin Blyden. Click to access photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/