DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s governor defended the embattled Department of Human Services to state lawmakers who have complained that the agency that oversees child welfare needs a new direction.
Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a four-page response Thursday to the 84 state lawmakers who wrote his earlier this month to point out “disturbing issues” in the agency, including alleged abuse of people with disabilities and overmedication of foster children.
Hickenlooper vowed to meet personally with any concerned lawmaker. But Hickenlooper said the issues they identified are already being addressed and that the agency is better since the arrival of executive director Reggie Bicha in 2011.
“We have taken these concerns very seriously,” Hickenlooper wrote, adding that the agency “already has taken corrective action” on some of the problems outlined in the lawmakers’ letter.
The governor addressed each of lawmakers’ eight complaints about the department, including abuse of patients at the Pueblo Regional Center for people with disabilities, mismanagement of a job training program, overmedication of foster children, and lack of monitoring of county-run child protection departments.
All of the issues but one had been addressed by the department already, Hickenlooper said. The investigation into physical, verbal and sexual abuse of patients with disabilities is ongoing and under review by a third party, he said.
Hickenlooper flatly concluded, “I intend to continue with Executive Director Bicha.” Lawmakers did not specifically call for his ouster, but they did ask the governor to correct or replace the agency’s leadership.
Lawmakers reached by The Denver Post for reaction said they want to keep talking with the governor.
“What I would like the governor to do is assess the situation. It’s an important department, and it needs to be run correctly,” said Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield Democrat.
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