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Youth At Risk Of Becoming Homeless Could Qualify For New Housing Program

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today that they have partnered with the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) to implement the Territory’s first housing assistance program for youth who have left (aged out of) the foster care system and are at risk of becoming homeless. This is especially great news during Foster Care Awareness Month.

National statistics show that more than 25% of former foster children become homeless within two to four years after emancipation, and an even higher percentage often experience unsafe or unstable living situations. The Foster Youth to Independence (FYI), initiative enacted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), makes Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) assistance available to Public Housing Agencies such as the Virgin Islands Housing Authority in partnership with Public Child Welfare Agencies such as the Department of Human Services.

In the USVI, the requirements to qualify for the FYI initiative include individuals who are at least 18 years old and
not more than 24 years of age (have not reached their 25th birthday) who left foster care or will leave foster care
within 90 days in accordance with their Foster Care Transition Plan and who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.

All youth for the FYI program are referred to VIHA by the DHS Division of Children and Family Services. Per the V.I. statute, the vouchers can be used to provide housing assistance for up to three years (36 months). In addition to the rental assistance, these young people will also be provided with supportive services to assist them on their path to self-sufficiency. These supportive services may include:

  • Basic life skills information: Money management counseling, credit etiquette, housekeeping,
    nutrition / meal preparation, and healthcare access.
  • Compliance counseling with rental lease requirements and with HCV program participant
    requirements, including assistance/referrals for assistance with: Security deposits, utility installation
    fees and utility deposits.
  • Job preparation and attainment counseling: Where to look / how to apply, dress / grooming, and
    relationship skills with supervisors and personnel, etc.
  • Educational and career advancement counseling: Attainment of general equivalency diploma
    (GED), maintaining attendance, financing of education at a technical school / trade school / college,
    and successful work ethic training and attitude models.


To secure longer term housing assistance, individuals participating in the program may apply and become eligible
for the regular Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8), as long as income requirements are
met.

This cross-departmental partnership between DHS and VIHA aims to prevent and end homelessness among atrisk youth with a history of out-of-home care. The DHS Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is currently
working to identify and refer eligible youth to VIHA for certification and eligibility and to connect them to resources
and support services.

Housing options under the FYI program are not limited to public housing facilities. Eligible participants will also
have the option to transfer their vouchers to another approved US jurisdictions.
For more information, please call or email the Department of Human Services DCFS:
• (St. Croix) – (340) 773-5303
• (St. Thomas/St. John) – (340) 473-5794 *Either number may be called for general information.
• Email: fostercare.vi@dhs.vi.gov

The Department of Human Services (VIDHS) exists to provide social services to members in our community with
diverse needs. In times of national uncertainty and hardship we act as a safety-net and exist to inspire hope and
empower change through non-judgmental, quality delivery of needed services and resources. Please visit the
Department of Human Services website, www.dhs.gov.vi for more information.

For more information on COVID-19, please visit covid19usvi.com, or text COVID19USVI to 888777. To report a
suspected COVID-19 case, call (340) 712-6299 or (340) 776-1519. ###

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D-SNAP Emergency Food Stamps Won’t Happen Without Presidential Disaster Declaration

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Department of Human Services has announced that Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) has not been implemented in the territory.

There is no Presidential Disaster Declaration at this time. Households with reduced or terminated income may apply for benefits through the normal DHS SNAP offices located throughout the territory.

Check our website www.dhs.gov.vi under the Division of Family Assistance tab for applications and more information.

Applications are also available in specific grocery stores on all three islands, or at the DHS offices located on each island.

Completed applications may be mailed, emailed, faxed or dropped off to drop boxes located at each local office.

Please be sure to provide a working phone number on your application.

Eligibility interviews are being conducted over the phone rather than in person to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

https://vifreepress.com/2020/04/dhs-announces-additional-snap-benefits-for-recipients-due-to-covid-19-crisis/

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DHS Hosts Pop-Up Interviews For Qualified Social Workers on January 24 and 27

CHRISTIANSTED — The Department of Human Services (DHS) said that the department will be holding interviews for qualified walk-in social worker applicants this Friday, January 24 and Monday, January 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Knud Hansen Complex on St. Thomas and the Anna’s Hope Head Start Administration Building on St. Croix.

The department is seeking to fill a number of social work positions (Social Work Levels I, II and III) across the agency within the next few months. Therefore, they have created this expedited, rapid interview process.

Qualified candidates must possess and bring:

• Valid license to practice social work in the Virgin Islands

• Proof of identity

• Proof of education credentials Job descriptions and applications will be provided on site.

Qualified candidates will be able to provide professional social work or rehabilitation counseling with supervision.

DHS social workers work on complex cases that require knowledge of the local laws rules, regulations, and department policies and procedures.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to attend and explore becoming a part of the DHS team.

Check out the DHS Facebook page for additional details: www.facebook.com/usvidhs/?epa=Search_BOX or contact jobs@dhs.vi.gov

The Department of Human Services is committed to providing social services that will enhance the quality of life for individuals and families with diverse needs; and work toward our vision to empower individuals and families toward self-sufficiency through a seamless delivery system.

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USVI Will Move Into 21st Century For Medicaid Recipients After Using $14.9M Federal Grant

CHRISTIANSTED — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. Friday announced that the U.S. Virgin Islands has been awarded $14.9 million in federal funding to implement a Health Information Exchange (HIE) for the territory’s approximately 29,000 Medicaid recipients and to continue promoting the use of certified electronic health record technology by healthcare providers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (HHS-CMS) has approved $14,990,078 to be used between fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to build an HIE for Virgin Islands Medicaid recipients.

The funding is also to be used for the continued administration of the Promoting Interoperability program in the territory.

HHS-CMS’ funding approval authorizes $8,810,501 for Fiscal Year 2020 and $4,680,569 for Fiscal Year 2021, with the federal share at $13,491,070, or 90 percent, and a local match of $1,499,008 or 10 percent.

The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services will administer the funds and is tasked with establishing the HIE. A HIE allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare providers and patients to access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically – improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.

“Implementing a health information exchange in the USVI is essential to building a 21st century healthcare infrastructure,” Bryan said Thursday. “A real-time interoperable territorial HIE is critical because it would eliminate redundant tests and procedures, increase patient engagement by allowing patients to view their health information in real time, and increase quality of care since longitudinal information may exist. Overall this will improve health outcomes.”

Also, in 2011, HHS-CMS created the Promoting Interoperability program which incentivizes eligible professionals and hospitals to adopt, implement, upgrade as well as successfully demonstrate the use of certified electronic health record technology.

“This effort will require strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors and nongovernmental organizations,” the governor said. “These partners must work collectively and collaboratively to develop and sustain the territorial HIE. We must also look beyond our current needs and plan for the future. The territorial HIE should be not limited to local public and private providers but also to those providing care on the US mainland and beyond.”

HHS-CMS plans to conduct onsite reviews of the program to determine if the objectives for which the federal funding was approved are being accomplished and to verify that the program is being administered effectively and efficiently.

Governor Bryan thanked former Delegate to Congress Donna Christiansen, and leadership teams of the Virgin Islands departments of Health and Human Services and local hospital and health center officials for working closely with his office on the HIE initiative.

Meanwhile, some reaction on the Virgin Islands Free Press main site was critical of the way the announcement was couched by Government House.

“Amazing how many people want to take credit for a federal program,” Tom Cruzan said. “The Governor should be thanking the federal government not these lazy bums that are just now trying to implement something that’s been out there for more than a decade.”

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DHS Promises To Revamp Its Services After Inhumane Death Of Aaron Benjamin Jr.

FREDERIKSTED — Following the tragic death of four-year-old Aaron Benjamin, Jr. in October 2019, Commissioner Causey-Gomez authorized the launch of an internal audit and investigation of the Department of Human Services (DHS) to determine how department practices and policies should be revisited to help prevent future tragedies involving children in the territory.

“The Department of Human Services’ recent audit of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ child welfare system revealed a need to implement immediate staffing changes and a need to expedite our recruitment efforts to enhance staffing levels across units; a need for additional forensic and social services training; a need for a more stringent level of internal accountability and supervision; a mandate for implementation of current national evidence-based and outcome-oriented best practices; and a need to increase additional public awareness of resources, education and training on tools available through DHS and other community partners for child and family wellness,” Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said. “To this end, DHS has begun to restructure its child protective services system including personnel changes coupled with efforts to provide additional training and supervision and accountability,” she said. “DHS staff have begun participating in local and national trainings with federal and non-federal national partners, to include peer-to-peer on-site knowledge exchange,” Commissioner Causey-Gomez said. “Technical assistance is underway to complete a review of the Virgin Islands statutory Children’s Policy, in an effort to identify areas in need of federal compliance as a vehicle to inform needed upgrades to the local practice model for child welfare.”

As a result of the audit, Commissioner Causey-Gomez announced that DHS is instituting internal staffing changes and intensive training.

DHS Promises To Revamp Its Services After Inhumane Death Of Aaron Benjamin Jr.
Aaron Benjamin, Jr., 4, in his casket during funeral service on St. Croix.

“The Department of Human Services realizes that while child protective services systems work every day to prevent instances of child fatality, efforts are never 100 percent guaranteed,” Commissioner Causey-Gomez said. “Therefore, the territory will be joining the rest of the nation by establishing a Child Fatality Review Panel of multiagency experts to facilitate expeditious, transparent and ongoing assessment and investigation of any such future incidences to help aid in prevention. In the coming months, we will also be assertively engaging with key community partners to help educate and empower our community to play a role in protecting children.”

The Commissioner further shared that the audit revealed staff followed policies and procedures and did not uncover wanton negligence in the Aaron Benjamin Jr. case.

But as a result of changes brought about by the audit, disciplinary actions have been taken to address deficiencies by some staff in the execution of their duties. HIPAA regulations and protected personnel information prevent the department from sharing additional details. DHS has just begun an exhaustive strategic planning process that will further identify objectives that will guide, enhance and improve the overall functioning of the Department of Human Services.

“While sadly, no one individual and no one government agency can definitively prevent abuse and neglect from occurring, we can and must all know the tools and resources available to intervene if we suspect it,” she said. “If you see something, say something.”

If you hear, see or suspect abuse or neglect of a child, please call DHS Intake at (340) 772-7119 on St. Croix and (340) 774-0930 ext. 4264 on St. Thomas. Always call 911 in an emergency.

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Human Services Says Cash Benefits For Blind, Aged And TANF Ready Now

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez is notifying all persons who receive Public Assistance also known as Cash Benefits – which Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Aid to Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD), General Tutor (GT), General Assistance (GA) and General Disability (GD) – that their benefits will be available as follows:

Banco Popular ATH Cardholders will have their benefits available on their cards by or before the end of December 31, 2019.

All Other Banks ATH Cardholders will have their benefits available on their cards on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

DHS Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said she wishes all DHS clients and the wider Virgin Islands community a Happy New Year!

Human Services Says Cash Benefits For Blind, Aged And TANF Ready Now
Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez

For further questions or inquiries, please call 340-772-7100 ext. 7121 on St. Croix or 340-774-2399 for the St. Thomas-St. John District.

Please note, the Department of Human Services Division of Family Assistance will re-open at 8:00 a.m. January 2, 2020.