County Controller And Dept. Of Human Services At Odds Over Recovery Home Audit

Jul 9, 2019

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and County Controller Chelsa Wagner are at odds over an audit released last week that reported standards were not met in several addiction recovery sites.

The audit covered the operations of four recovery homes, East End Cooperative Ministries, Familylinks, Three Rivers Youth, and Clean and Sober Humans from July 1, 2017 through October 31, 2018. It includes findings such as alleged overpayment to recovery homes, sites operating without proper permitting, and noncompliance with guidelines laid out in the DHS-issued request for proposal, or RFP.

Those guidelines are the subject of disagreement. Almost all of the metrics that DHS and recovery homes were evaluated on were based on the RFP, but that document was not included in any contracts with providers.

DHS claims that this was the wrong standard to use in an evaluation. The department notes that not one of their 350 contracts includes an RFP, implying there is no precedent for the audit to be based on the guidelines found in the RFP.

Wagner said it was “inappropriate and arbitrary” to have standards included in the RFP that were not included in the contracts with individual recovery homes. But Marc Cherna, director of DHS, said the proposal documents were never meant to be enumerated requirements, but rather aspirational goals for providers to strive for.

Cherna said that it is irregular for an audit to be based on a non-contractually binding document, rather than on the contracts actually signed with providers.

Wagner supports the recovery housing initiative, but said the audited facilities received minimal oversight from DHS, which she said lacked “basic due-diligence” in reportedly allowing sites to operate without proper permits. The audit also said the locations were visited infrequently.

While he acknowledges that the pilot program wasn’t perfect, Cherna holds that the report doesn’t accurately represent the work being done at the four audited sites because it was based on an incorrect standard.

“This was new for us, and we will continue to make improvements in this program as we learn through experience,” he said. “Certainly we feel we have abided by every regulation and policy and practice in terms of doing this.”

A second, forthcoming RFP for recovery housing has been drafted by DHS, which hopes to expand the recovery housing program soon.