VOCAL-NY AIDS Policy Update | February 22, 2012
According to a leaked memo obtained by VOCAL-NY, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) is merging HASA into Customized Assistance Services (CAS), a division within HRA that focuses on welfare-to-work for HRA clients who have disabilities and medical conditions, starting on March 1st. Dr. Frank Lipton is the Executive Deputy Commissioner in charge of CAS. The memo is attached.
We are concerned about the secretive manner in which this agency reorganization has occurred and what it could mean for future policy changes affecting HASA clients. HRA provided no notice to HASA clients, service providers or City Council about the agency reorganization, despite a recent City Council General Welfare oversight hearing about policy changes at HASA. HASA is currently part of the Medical Insurance & Community Service Administration (MICSA), a division of HRA that focuses on “medically-related social services programs.”
Clients in HRA’s CAS division are typically channeled into WeCARE, a controversial program that promotes welfare-to-work programs for HRA clients who have physical or mental health barriers to employment. According to HRA, “WeCARE’s impact is measured by its ability to help clients find and keep jobs, complete wellness plans, and obtain federal disability benefits,” and the program works to “ensure their medical staff take an employment-centered approach.”
To be clear, HRA has NOT stated any plans to lift the work exemption for HASA clients. However, the lack of transparency around the agency reorganization and vague statements about moving HASA clients into employment in Commissioner Doar’s Huffington Post op-ed last World AIDS Day suggest this may a direction the agency is heading in.
We hope not. The WeCARE program is riddled with problems, including poor job training and placement, unnecessary sanctions and case closings, problematic medical assessments (conducted intenrally by WeCARE physicians) and placements into unpaid Work Experience Program (WEP) assignments. A Comptroller’s audit also found that HRA failed to provide adequate oversight of WeCARE contracts.
Combined with the new drug screening policy that can lead to denial of housing assistance, broker’s fee policy that is making housing placing more difficult and proposed budget cuts that would undermine supportive housing, we are concerned this latest move suggests the Bloomberg administration is entering a new level in their attempts to dismantle the safety net for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.