When the Florida Department of Children and Families claimed earlier this month to have saved taxpayers $1.7 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or food stamps, what they really meant was they stopped subsidizing people who didn't qualify for the program.
A simple cross-referencing of patients living full-time in seven state mental health facilities found 400 residents who were improperly receiving SNAP or cash assistance.
"Our Public Benefits Integrity staff ran a SNAP check on patients at all DCF licensed mental health facilities," department spokesman Whitney Ray told Florida Watchdog in an email.
"The patients at DCF licensed mental health facilities receive meals and are therefore ineligible for SNAP benefits," he said.
An Aug. 9 press release said the discovery resulted from a first-of-its-kind data analytics program, though Ray said that was not actually the case.
Of the 400 inpatient recipients, 82 were victims of identity theft. Another 40 resulted from either family members or caregivers who failed to report the patient no longer lived with them.
"We are searching statewide for people scamming the system," said DCF interim Secretary Esther Jacobo. "That includes people taking advantage of the patients in our mental health facilities. Fraudsters prey on people in hospitals and people who can't defend themselves."