2012-01-20 / Community

Rockaway Medicaid Office Moved To L.I.C.

By Miriam Rosenberg

Despite moving Medicaid Services out of the building in October, this sign still hangs inside the entrance of the HRA Center at Beach 59 Street. Despite moving Medicaid Services out of the building in October, this sign still hangs inside the entrance of the HRA Center at Beach 59 Street. With no warning to social workers, Medicaid recipients or local leaders, the City of New York closed down the Medicaid office in Arverne and moved its workers to Long Island City in October.

The majority of the public is just beginning to realize the change.

According to a flyer currently being handed out at the HRA office, located at 219 Beach 59 Street, the last date Medicaid services were offered there was on October 6. On October 7, transferred HRA workers from Arverne began to offer Medicaid services at the Queens Community Medicaid Office located at 45-12 32 Place on the first floor.

Despite HRA saying they sent out Alerts to case representatives about the move, the Director of the Rockaway Case Management Program at JASA only learned of the change the first week of this month after attempting to reach workers for her clients. On January 5, she emailed The Wave.

“I was not aware and many of the clients were not as well,” said Regine Borgella, who explained that she tried calling at the end of last month but no one was picking up. “I finally called the Medicaid Hotline and they told me the office moved.” She questioned whether “there was any discussion in the community about not having a Medicaid office located here?”

The offices of Councilman James Sanders and Congressman Gregory Meeks were also unaware of the move until they were contacted by this newspaper.

Representatives for both electeds said rumors of a move had been floating around, but they had heard nothing definite.

“I had heard from different people that Beach 59 Street was overcrowded, overused and they were looking for ways to streamline things,” said a representative for Sanders. “We didn’t envision Long Island City.”

Saying that the councilman is not happy with the move, the representative said there was some talk of moving the office to Beach 116 Street.

While it would have been out of his district, Sanders would still have seen it as beneficial since it would have remained on the peninsula.

“There are lots of places in Rockaway that would be happy to have tenants,” said the councilman’s representative. Moving it to Long Island City, “takes a viable service away [from the Rockaways].”

Sanders is planning to hold a rally outside the Beach 59 Street HRA office within the next two weeks so that the community can show its displeasure with the agency’s decision to close the Medicaid office there.

HRA spokeswoman Connie Ress denied there wasn’t prior notice of the move.

“HRA posted signage/flyers indicating the new location at the affected locations (including Rockaway), notified all Queens community boards, and posted relevant information on the HRA website one month prior to the move,” said Ress in an email to The Wave on Tuesday.

“Additionally, as is our standard practice, we sent mailings to the Borough President, Members of the City Council affected by the change (in this case the entire Queens delegation), the City Council Speaker, Public Advocate and Mayor’s Office. And, a Medicaid Alert notice was sent to 3,800 client representatives, community-based organizations and health plans indicating the move.”

Ress also said that, “The move was part of an HRA consolidation plan. We will serve anyone in need of assistance at our Queens Medicaid Office located in Long Island City, or any other Medicaid Office throughout the five boroughs.”

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, said this week that neither he nor his office manager recalls seeing any notices of the move.

“We were just as shocked as anyone,” said Gaska.

The Medicaid office at Beach 59 was one of three offices in Queens that was shut down in October.

The Jamaica Medicaid Office on 88 Avenue and the Elmhurst Hospital Medicaid Office were also moved to the L.I.C. location. The Human Resource Administration building in Arverne was renovated in 2005 as part of the Model Office Initiative meant to enhance the delivery of services to HRA clients by means of greater efficiency and modern technology.

At the groundbreaking ceremony Mayor Bloomberg said that the center will become “one-hub for the community to come to get help.”

Medicaid is a federal program administrated by the city.

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