Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you are enjoying the last few weeks of summer. Many of you are busy getting your kids ready to return to the classroom or helping send them off to college, so hopefully you are finding some time to take advantage of this nice weather in between the back-to-school shopping!
On August 13, a Minnesota Senate hearing was held to learn more about the continued nonsense that’s occurring within Minnesota’s Department of Human Services. I traveled to St. Paul in order to work with my Senate colleagues on this issue, especially considering our House leadership has ignored the topic and to date has failed to schedule any hearings.
The end results of this gathering: several no-shows, many non-answers, and a current employee who fears she’ll be terminated for attempting to extinguish what appears to be a dumpster fire within the department.
DHS: AN AGENCY MIRED IN CHAOS
Prior to the hearing, Governor Walz said we would receive answers regarding the numerous problems uncovered within DHS. On the day of the hearing, the new DHS Commissioner did not attend. Neither did the previous commissioner, nor the two deputy commissioners who have had trouble deciding whether they wanted to stay or leave the agency.
The acting DHS commissioner did show up, and told us next to nothing.
The former medical director at DHS also testified and told us that “unconscionable arrogance” from DHS leadership creates a difficult environment to achieve goals at the agency. A current DHS compliance officer took a vacation day to speak before the committee, discussing the retaliation she faced for reporting the “serious non-compliance issues” she uncovered with state contracts.
We learned that after bringing up her concerns, this compliance officer was escorted out of the office and was banned from DHS properties for a time. The reason? She was "too focused on compliance."
In other words, she was shunned for looking into, finding, and attempting to address waste, fraud, or abuse within taxpayer-funded programs – otherwise known as her job.
You’ll recall DHS also overpaid the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the White Earth Nation by $25.3 million for medication-assisted therapy treatments covered under Medicaid. DHS now says it wants the two Indian bands to pay the money back even if the error was caused by the agency. The bands in turn criticized DHS for punishing them when they were not at fault.
Senators told DHS not to come to the legislature looking for a $25 million bailout of its self-inflicted problem next year, and rightfully so.
In my opinion, the culture within DHS is toxic, and its clear next-to-no effort has been made by this agency to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used wisely. This is the largest agency in state government, and accountability is seriously lacking.
Scarcely few questions were answered during this hearing and even more were raised. Residents should know that as a member of the health and human services committee in the Minnesota House, I am committed to eliminating the waste, fraud and abuse that is obviously happening within DHS, and will continue to work with my legislative colleagues towards finding answers on CCAP fraud, tribe overpayments, and the rest of the turmoil occurring within the agency. We need more hearings and more department accountability.
There are plenty of red flags flying high at the Department of Human Services these days. Minnesotans deserve to find out why.