The Neighborhood Center, a regular partner with the West Volusia Hospital Authority, has been charged a $5,000 penalty for violating an agreement with the authority to hire a health care navigator who was “SSI/SSDI, Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) certified.”
When the West Volusia Hospital Authority began crafting its 2021-22 budget, Commissioner Jennifer Coen had suggested not funding The Neighborhood Center’s Healthcare Navigator program. The program had been awarded $50,000 from the Hospital Authority for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Coen expressed concern about The Neighborhood Center’s practice of hiring individuals with “learned experience,” as she called it in a letter to the rest of the Hospital Authority board.
Coen changed her mind after touring The Neighborhood Center’s facility and speaking with people involved in the program.
“[A]fter in-depth conversations, in-person interviews and a tour of its facilities, I was able to establish that TNC has a company policy to hire only persons with clean criminal-background checks, and has terms of employment which require all employees to participate in a random drug-testing program,” she wrote. “I believe this is sufficient in creating a positive work culture and a deterrent.”
However, after reconsidering providing funding for the program, Coen discovered that The Neighborhood Center had hired an individual to operate the program who is not SOAR-certified, as required by the funding agreement.
Neighborhood Center Executive Director Susan Clark was present at the Hospital Authority’s Sept. 23 meeting to personally apologize and to confirm that the Healthcare Navigator staffer had become SOAR-certified.
“I just want to apologize for the position we put this board in,” she said. “We have resolved it. Our Healthcare Navigator did a lot of coursework very rapidly and, going forward, she will be SOAR-certified.”
The Hospital Authority noted other problems with The Neighborhood Center’s documentation of income when assisting homeless individuals. This isn’t always easy to document, Clark explained, but she said her staff would work to better track the information required by the Hospital Authority.
The Hospital Authority chose to fund the Healthcare Navigator program with $50,000 again for the 2021-22 fiscal year, but charged a $5,000 penalty for the contract breach. The Neighborhood Center has 10 months to pay the penalty.
The Neighborhood Center was already hard at work remedying the contract breaches, Hospital Authority Commissioner Judy Craig said, and while the authority was penalizing the agency, she reminded everyone of how many people The Neighborhood Center serves from homeless and otherwise “down and out” populations.