County Board hears annual reports

By Fritz Busch

Staff Writer

NEW ULM – Brown County Family Services (BCFS) Fraud Investigator Preston Cowing thanked law enforcement for supporting what he does during his annual report to Brown County commissioners.

“I want to publicly thank them,” Cowing said. “Police and the sheriff’s department are out there 24-7. They can see things I don’t.”

The collection department reported a record year in 2013 with $413,537.95 collected, $145,129.06 of which went to county. The figure compares to $380,960.51 collected in 2012 and $293,367.18 in 2011, according to Request for Board Action (RBA).

Cowing said the increase is mostly due to MA (Medical Assistance) estate recoveries. “The last two years have been good in this area,” Cowing said. “The amount in the first two months of this year are half of last year’s total.”

Detox was the second-largest collection area, according to the report. “It is not so necessarily important to recover the dollars as it is to send a message for the collections program that money belongs to the government should go to the government and to the fraud program. Fraud is not tolerated in Brown County,” Cowing said.

Brown County adheres to a plan of intervening early with a home call program, preventing fraud situations from becoming criminal acts, according to the report. This saves the county court involvement and county attorney time costs.

Brown County Family Services Director Tom Henderson said MNsure (state healthcare coverage website) is improving with more people on it, but the system doesn’t allow changes, including cancellations, once people are in it. “We have a dead person on it and can’t get them out of it because MNsure won’t allow us to tell them about it,” Henderson said. “The system was set up in a year instead of three to five years as it should have been. This problem is mushrooming fast around the state.”

Commissioners approved:

The 2012 Brown County Chemical Dependency Treatment Outcome Measures Report. It continues to show that Brown County treatment is provided at a much younger age than statewide statistics show and that alcohol dominates the primary substance used, more so in Brown County (54.4 percent) than statewide (44.3 percent), according to the report.

“It’s very alarming that binge drinking, marijuana use and the number of ninth-graders attempting suicide are above the state average,” said Brown County Chemical Dependency Counselor Leah Luke. “We’re dual diagnosing more people now for mental health and alcohol simultaneously. I need to focus on educating youth, so we recently bought a 12-week educational program to deal with younger youth.”

Luke said she has contacted all Brown County school principals and counselors about she and a New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) drug and alcohol counseling talking to 7th and 8th graders about drug and alcohol use.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl said the local Healthy Communities/ Healthy Youth (HCHY) program grant has run out but the organization is applying for a new four-year grant and continues to function.

The 2013 Holiday and Coats for Kids projects report showing $53,600 worth of contributions in addition to hundreds of hours of volunteer project service that benefitted 396 households involving 1,015 children, adults, disabled persons and/or the elderly across Brown County.

“Thanks to the generosity and commendable efforts put forth by a broad base of more than 50 countywide support groups, families and individuals, these programs were again extremely successful,” wrote Brown County Support Services Coordinator Bob Apitz in the Request for Board Action (RBA).

A 2014 contract with Mankato Rehabilitation Center Inc. for sheltered work services. The 2014 contract remains the same amount as 2013-$149,891.56, according to the RBA.

Purchased two Heartland Express dispatcher chairs at a cost of $1,116.72 from Steelcase Company through General Office Products at a state contract price.

An update on 2014 septic loans available to county residents showing $172,501 available for 19 to 20 projects. Last year, Brown County loaned out $182,148 and received $88,151 in previous loan payments, according to the RBA.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com

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