Hubbard County is no longer paying any bills from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).

From January 2014 to May 2019, DHS mismanaged payments to chemical dependency treatment providers. In December 2019, the state social service agency notified counties and tribes that they will be responsible for paying back more than $9 million to the federal government that was improperly spent.

County Social Services Director Brian Ophus said he received an email from the Minnesota Association of County Administrators (MACA) executive director stating that “DHS has already started adding these back payments to the DHS bill, which is counter to what they said they were going to do.” Ophus spoke with the Hubbard County Board on Tuesday.

Ophus said, in a Dec. 23 letter, DHS stated it would help counties identify billing errors. He explained that DHS invoices involve codes and “it’s a long list.”

Ophus has estimated that DHS will charge Hubbard County approximately $25,000.

Following suit with other Minnesota counties, earlier this month Hubbard County sent a formal letter to DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead saying the county refuses to pay for DHS’ billing errors.

Ophus said both the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) and MACA recommend halting all county payments to DHS. He informed DHS of this, explaining that “until they follow through with their intentions of giving the county guidance, we won’t be paying any DHS bills at this time.”

“Good,” said board chair Char Christenson. “Gov. Walz has promised the counties aren’t going to have to pay this.”

“It’s sad to see the continuation of the odd things that DHS has been doing,” Ophus said.

The AMC is also working with Gov. Tim Walz to recover the costs from state funds.