May 31, 2013

Hope and a Home, Sarah’s Circle, Samaritan Ministry, the Lourie Center, Medicaid Millionaire. What do these five things have in common? Each professes to help those in need.

Four of them operate on shoestring budgets, supported by private donations, with small staffs and volunteers. They do indeed help those they serve.

The fifth, Medicaid Millionaire, has handled millions of taxpayer dollars but is a disaster. More about that a little later.

Hope and a Home, a District-based nonprofit, steps in when a potential breakdown looms in low-income families. With volunteers and money it scrapes together from private donors, the organization, led by director Lynn French, works with hard-pressed families. The organization provides stable housing and counseling and helps put them on a path to fulfilling lives. Rhetoric? No.

In the past year, six families graduated from Hope and a Home’s transitional housing program into permanent housing. One family even became homeowners.

Hope and a Home’s mentoring of children pays off, too. This year, three students graduated from college and five graduated from high school. This month, seven more students will graduate from high school and each is headed to college.

Sarah’s Circle, in Adams Morgan, operates a 34-unit affordable housing and wellness center for about 40 senior citizens with very low incomes.

Executive director Jessica Petro focuses on bringing dignity and security into the lives of people who may have had too little of both. The group’s staff and volunteers aim to replace low-income seniors’ struggle for survival with the desire for spiritual and intellectual growth. Despite its small budget, Sarah’s Circle runs a meal program and exercise and wellness classes, and it sponsors field trips. Most of all, Sarah’s Circle tries to give seniors peace of mind.

Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington, which has facilities in Northwest and Southeast as well as in Northern Virginia, draws its support largely from the Episcopal Church and other denominations. The Rev. David B. Wolf, its executive director, and his skeletal staff and small army of volunteers seek to address the problems of the homeless and people with HIV/AIDS.

Last year, more than 5,500 Samaritan Ministry volunteers contributed more than 25,000 hours of their time. That translates into computer mentoring for 245 people, finding jobs for 167 unemployed people, locating housing for 63 homeless people, and providing health screening and job workshops for more than 500 others.

Samaritan Ministry is about more than delivering services. Its mission is to help people in need make lasting changes in their lives.

The Reginald S. Lourie Center in Rockville has a similar goal and focuses on infants and children with behavioral and emotional problems.

Led by executive director Marcel Wright, the Lourie Center’s early Head Start program, therapeutic nursery program and parent-child clinical services are a model for the area — a fact recognized by the D.C. Public Schools, which sends children with special needs there for services.

The Lourie Center, Hope and a Home, Sarah’s Circle and Samaritan Ministry all reach out to those who hurt. They primarily rely on private and corporate contributions. And they do their valuable work without fanfare.

The admonition to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” means something to these groups. (My wife and I have contributed to all these groups.)

Would that the same could be said of the Medicaid Millionaire.

That’s what Forbes magazine dubbed Jeffrey Thompson, the local accountant made rich by D.C. taxpayers, last summer.

Thompson, a politically connected businessman and lavish campaign donor, has been linked to the financing of a “shadow campaign” that backed Vincent Gray’s successful challenge in the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary.

The source of much of his funds is, however, well known. Thompson’s company, D.C. Chartered Health Plan, managed the health care of more than 100,000 low-income residents. As the city’s largest Medicaid contractor, Chartered Health Plan handled more than $300 million a year in taxpayer funds, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reported last spring.

The company was forced into receivership last fall after auditors found financial irregularities and low funding reserves.

According to the update the company’s rehabilitator recently filed with D.C. Superior Court, “claims of approximately $35 million have been processed but not paid as of May 10. Chartered estimates $25 million remains in incurred but not reported claims with an additional $35 million in disputed claims in arbitration with MedStar’s Washington Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital.”

It’s not as if the city wasn’t warned about Thompson’s operation. The Fenty administration’s attorney general, Peter Nickles, sued the company in 2008, charging that it had defrauded the city of millions by overcharging for Medicaid bills. The lawsuit was settled that year with Thompson agreeing to pay $12 million and make other changes.

Hello?

The District then turned around and gave the company another multimillion-dollar contract.

Meanwhile, groups such as Hope and a Home, Sarah’s Circle, Samaritan Ministry and the Lourie Center have to make do with whatever they can scrounge. It’s just not fair.

Read more from Colbert King’s archive.