Thursday, January 5, 2017

Human Services Welfare Fraud Case Sentenced

The Mesa County Department of Human Services (MCDHS) Fraud and Recovery Unit in combination with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office sent a case of suspected fraud to the Mesa County District Attorney’s office, totaling approximately $30,000 involving the following programs, Food Assistance, Medicaid, LEAP and the USDA School Lunch program. An additional, $1,412.07 in administrative costs is associated with the investigation for a total restitution of $30,931.68.  The fraud occurred from 8/1/13 through1 /31/16.  The fraud suspect, Miriah Verzani was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 5 years probation, she is required to pay full restitution and is disqualified from receiving Food Assistance benefits for 12 months. Verzani was sentenced on January 3, 2017.

Verzani intentionally forged rental lease agreements to remove her spouse who is also the father of her children, resulting in failing to report her spouse’s income.  Additionally, she forged lease agreements to inflate her obligated rent expense.  Further, Verzani added others to her lease who did not reside with her. All of these actions lead to Verzani receiving more public assistance than her household was eligible for.

Intentionally defrauding public assistance programs consists of falsely reporting information on an application including household composition, household resources or household income. Punishment for these crimes includes: repayment of benefits issued and may result in a 1-year to lifetime, ban from receiving public assistance benefits and/or criminal prosecution.

“Our Fraud and Recovery team takes investigating false information on public assistance applications very seriously.”  said Tracey Garchar, Executive Director for the Mesa County Department of Human Services. “Ensuring benefits go to families who are truly eligible and in need is our utmost priority” added Garchar.

If you or someone you know suspects welfare fraud, please call the Mesa County Department of Human Services Welfare Fraud Hotline at (970) 256-2421.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Over 700 Books Being Donated to Foster Children in Mesa County

A local Mesa County resident makes reading a mission! Shelly Williams is donating over 700 new books to foster children in Mesa County. Mrs. Williams home schools her children and believes that books are integral to a child’s learning experience. She has stocked her children’s bookshelves with books and each year she then donates books to others in the community.

Williams will be donating the books on Monday, December 19, 2016, at the Mesa County Workforce Center room D from 10:00am-2:00 pm.

A book is such a wonderful gift for a child, especially during the holidays,” said Placement Supervisor, Sarah St. Martin. “We are so pleased Shelly has chosen to share this generous gift with children in foster care.” she St. Martin.

Foster children in the care of Ariel Clinical Services, Whimspire Child Placement and Foster Care of Mesa County will bring children to pick out books at the Workforce Center on Monday.

More Foster/kinship families are needed to provide stability and love to children of all ages in Mesa County.  If you are interested in becoming a Foster Parent contact Foster Care of Mesa County at 970 683 2607. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Study Reveals: Rising Costs Associated with Elder Care to Impact Colorado

Colorado is the one of the first states in the Country to create a strategic plan for the aging population.

Colorado’s population over 55 will have a massive impact on nearly every Coloradoan over the next 14 years, according to a new report from the Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging.  The group and the study are a result of House Bill 15-1033. The group was commissioned by state lawmakers to research the economic impacts on citizens and state, local budgets. The report also examines transportation planning, workforce training and improving consumer protections for seniors.

Dave Norman Director of the Area Office on Aging AAA serves on the Strategic Action Group. Norman states, “The Group’s recommendations are for open coordinated and collaborative services for the State’s aging population.  This is not a top-down approach, rather solutions from the bottom up to address and provided critical services for one of the largest populations in the State.”

The group’s report was released on Tuesday morning and warns that if action is not taken to prepare there will be huge impacts on the state budget. Health care for the State’s aging population will continue to outpace the projected revenue growth.

A prevailing recommendation of the Group would be the creation of a new high-level position in the executive branch of the state government.  Norman compares the position to a “Czar on Aging for the State of Colorado.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Foster Care of Mesa County PRM Team Plays Santa

Foster Care of Mesa County held their annual stocking stuff day. The Foster Care Permanency Team spent the afternoon stuffing goodies into over 120 handmade Christmas Stockings for local Foster Care Children. Supervisor Laura Kinson says, "This is a labor of love for the team and it is one of the team's favorite projects during the year." The stockings will be handed out to children next week. 
If you would like more information on becoming a Foster Parent in Mesa County call 970 248 2794 
2016 Stocking Stuffing
Boxes and Piles of Handmade Stockings 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Colorado State Dept. of Human Services Hosting Post Permanency Roundtable in Mesa County

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) has been hosting Post Permanency Roundtable discussion throughout Colorado and will continue that conversation in both Montrose and Mesa County next week.  

The Mesa County Roundtable discussion will be held-
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Mesa County Workforce Center
512 29 ½ Road, Grand Junction
Conference Room B

The discussion will involve families who have been reunified, adopted or have guardianship of children/youth in their care and the (MCDHS) Mesa County Department of Human Services Post Adoption Team, community partners such as Hilltop, Ariel Clinical Services,and the Griffith Center.  The mission of this roundtable discussion is to explore issues impacting families post adoption and how community organization, MCDHS and CDHS can help support and solve these issues with their Counties.

The agenda will include Sue Badeau, facilitator with CDHS sharing perspectives on permanency and post-permanency for families, followed by discussion panels made of professional and families sharing their experiences.

According to MCDHS Supervisor, Hannah Webster, “This dialogue is about maintaining children in their homes with the least disruptions possible and supporting families.” Webster added, “After these statewide meetings CDHS will be compiling their findings and will be offering funding to assist communities to better achieve and maintain permanency within families.”

The Mesa County Department of Human Services is dedicated to building collaborations among local agencies and advocacy organizations to achieve permanency for children

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Child Abuse & Neglect Forum

A large crowd of community members and concerned citizens attend the Child Abuse & Neglect forum at the Mesa County Workforce Center. Participants heard about the challenges that impact abuse and neglect and solutions to help prevent it in the future. If you suspect child abuse or neglect call the Child Abuse Hotline at 970 242 1211. If you are looking for parent resources to help a stressed family dial 211. Other suggested solutions become a foster parent by calling 970 248 2794, become a CASA by calling 970 242 4191  or be a mentor through Partners call  970 245 5555.

The Group Continues to Grow
Kari Daggett Child Welfare Director & Janet Rowland CASA Director

Sheriff Matt Lewis addresses the group

Jay Seaton from the Sentinel hosts and moderates the discussion 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November is National Adoption Month

Mesa County will observe National Adoption Day with a Proclamation during the Mesa County Public Hearing on Monday,November 14 at 9am and on Friday, November 18 in Judge Robinson's Courtroom as seven local families finalize their adoptions.

More than 101,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system are awaiting permanent, loving families.  National Adoption Month is an effort to raise awareness about the adoption of children from foster care and to honor those adoptive families who have opened their homes and hearts to become the lifelong families for these children.  While over 60% of children in foster care will return to their biological parents, the others will require an alternate permanency outcome if the Court determines they are unable to return home. 

In Mesa County, there are approximately 20 children each year who become available for adoption through the Mesa County Department of Human Services and are in need of a permanent and stable home.  These children are generally over age 7 and may have developmental, medical or other special needs.  They may be part of a sibling group or have ethnically diverse backgrounds.    

“Adoption is a very special process and we are so proud to be a part of helping children find permanent, loving families,” said Dena Neujahr, Placement Services Team Supervisor for the Mesa County Department of Human Services.    

The Mesa County Department of Human Services is dedicated to building collaborations among local agencies, courts and advocacy organizations to achieve permanence for children.  This effort offers children the chance to live with stable and loving families and encourage other dedicated individuals to make a powerful difference in the lives of children through adoption.

Adoptions will begin at 9:30am and continue every 30 minutes through 1:00pm on November 18. A reception for, past and present adoptive families will be held in Courthouse Jury Room from 3pm-5pm after the final adoption has been finalized.

If you are interested in obtaining more information about services provided through the Mesa County Department of Human Services, please contact Dena Neujahr at 248-2818.