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I’ve designated Legislative Resolution 29 as my priority for this year. LR 29 will create the Eastern Service Area Child Welfare Contract Special Investigative and Oversight Committee of the Legislature.
The standing committee, Health and Human Services, will work collaboratively with the LR 29 Committee in studying the child welfare contract, the RFP (Request for Proposal) process and contract decision making process. The committees will also study the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Administrative Services with respect to the award, implementation, and oversight of the contract. Findings and recommendations will be issued no later than December 1, 2021.
With allegations of financial mismanagement and poor performance of the current contractor, I felt this was of utmost importance. Taking care of these vulnerable children IS of utmost importance. The contractor, Saint Francis Ministries, has commented to the Health and Human Services Committee, that their original application and bid for the $147 Million services contract was fraudulent. The latest CEO of that company used that very word in their report. So, why should the State of Nebraska continue to throw money at the contract in hopes of improving performance? In addition to the original amount, HHS issued an “emergency” contract with an additional amount that makes their payments even higher. Why? Because until other plans can be made and implemented to take care of the 2500 children involved, there is no one else to do it. The decades-long experiment in Nebraska with child welfare privatization has proven over and over that the process is fraught with problems.
Children in the eastern service area deserve better. Let’s see if we can get to the root of the problem.
A related bill is LB 428. Section 2 of AM 566 requires the Legislature to complete an evaluation of the “pilot program” of privatization of child welfare case management services in the Eastern Service Area by December 31, 2021. The bill would authorize the Legislature to hire a consultant to assist in completing the evaluation. LB 428 is currently on Select File, or the second round of debate. It is a Health and Human Services Committee bill that is very likely to pass.
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