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Monday, May 27, 2024

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Board OKs 1st Homeless Trust Fund Expenditure, Settles with State in Medicaid Fraud Case

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By Al Campbell

CREST HAVEN – There’s about $80,000 in a fund to aid the county’s homeless that’s been growing since 2017. 
County commissioners approved spending that money by Dec. 31, at their May 11 meeting.
At the urging of Commissioner Jeffrey Pierson, who oversees Human Services, the board passed a resolution to permit the county Homeless Trust Fund Advisory Board to spend the money on vouchers and other ways to aid the homeless.
Pierson reminded the board that homelessness is not solely defined as those living on the streets. Instead, it encompasses persons living with friends and relatives, as well as those living in vehicles.
Pierson spoke of the Homeless Trust Fund Advisory Board, which has been meeting “faithfully now for several months.” The board is tasked with spending funds on homeless persons. 
Those $3 funds have been collected by the county clerk on certain mortgage-related documents since 2017. Such fees must be spent every four years, which means Dec. 31 this year. If they are not spent, the money would revert to the New Jersey general treasury.
Pierson read recommendations from the advisory board that includes:
Starting a program that provides housing vouchers and case management to eligible consumers. 
Funds are allocated to the Division of Social Services to initially administer the program.
The fund was established Dec. 27, 2016.
Earlier that month, then-freeholders established the county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.
The homelessness fee is an additional recording fee assessed on most recorded land documents, including deeds, mortgages, and mortgage discharge documents, the county clerk stated at the time.
Pierson said the reason it took so long to start was the county had to learn policies and procedures mandated by the state to use homelessness funds. Additionally, it had to recruit volunteers for the board. 
The board was established in September 2020 and has been working under the direction of Donna Groome, Patricia DeVaney and Sabrina Hand.
Commissioner Will Morey asked about the plans of the advisory board. “Yes, they are working on the future,” said Pierson. He noted that a state advisor had been assisting.
“They’re actually looking at the construction of homes, a little bit of everything,” said Pierson. He added that due to the “immediate requirement to spend the money,” the commissioners’ approval to spend the money was needed.
Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton said that initially, the state sought the use of the fund for permanent housing for the homeless. 
“We had to argue… against some of that permanent housing situation so that we could just protect the homeless. That was difficult for a long time,” he said.
Settlement Agreement
Without comment, the board approved a settlement agreement with the state Office of the State Comptroller, Medicaid Fraud Division. 
The resolution states between Jan. 7, 2013, and Sept. 27, 2018, Crest Haven Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center was paid for Medicaid claims for services provided in part by a licensed practical nurse, identified only as B.D.
That person was “excluded from Medicaid, in violation of (two state statues).” 
The individual’s employment application with Crest Haven “falsely represented to Crest Haven that she had not been excluded from or sanctioned by any government health care benefits program, including… the Medicare and Medicaid programs when, in fact, she had been excluded, and further did not disclose that her license had been revoked under a different surname.”
The resolution noted that Crest Haven made reasonable efforts to ensure that employees providing services are not excluded from Medicaid. 
When the county received the payments from Medicaid, it “did not know that such payments constituted Medicaid overpayments.”
Crest Haven denied any wrongdoing, liability, fraud, guilt or intent to violate any laws when it hired B.D.
The county intends to file suit against B.D. “demanding judgment against her for the amount of this settlement.”
No amount was mentioned in the resolution.
Other Actions
The board also:
Approved a $14,085 change order with CFG Health Systems LLC to continue a medically assisted treatment program at the county correctional facility through June 30, 2021.
Approved a sublease with Animal Outreach of Cape May County and established terms to operate a spay-neuter clinic at the Animal Shelter through Dec. 31, 2021, with a one-year option to renew.
In cooperation with the county Office of Emergency Management and the Delaware River and Bay Authority, approved an event lease agreement to host a ham (amateur) radio field day at the county airport from June 25-27. The event allows amateur radio operators to hone their skills to communicate on portable equipment in the event of a disaster.
Authorized additional services with Michael Calafati Architect LLC for$44,866, to be divided between the Library Commission, City, and County of Cape May for work on the Franklin Street School, which will become a community center and branch library. Lead stabilization and cleaning and asbestos abatement were cited among the reasons for the contract addition.
For Woodbine’s Jake’s Law Playground, the county Open Space Fund will provide $20,000 for landscape architectural services “to advance the project to design development-construction documentation phase.”
Awarded a contract to Heyer Gruel & Associates PA, of Red Bank, to develop a comprehensive farmland preservation plan for the Department of Planning. The resolution calls for a one-year term, with two one-year options.
Recommending the fund, $73,266 from 2017, add about $6,800 from the 2018 collection, raising the total to roughly $80,000.

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