County Health and Human Services Levy Headlines HHSA County Committee Meeting

At the January 17 meeting of the Health, Human Services and Aging (HHSA) Committee of the Cuyahoga County Council, the first of 2018, the committee welcomed its newest member, Michael Houser.  The HHSA Committee is now comprised of Chair, Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, Vice Chair, Councilman Michael Houser, Councilwoman Nan Baker, Councilman Dale Miller and Councilwoman Shontel Brown. Council President Dan Brady also joined the meeting.

THE CUYAHOGA COUNTY HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES LEVY

The interim Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Walter Parjewiec, was the first to present to the Committee.  He spoke in general about the HHS levy that is scheduled to be on the May ballot.  The levy on the upcoming ballot is, at 3.9 mills, the smaller of two HHS levies.  It generates approximately $108 million per year, and costs a homeowner $136.50 yearly for every $100,000 his or her home is worth.  The money is used for a variety of purposes, including Senior and Adult Services, MetroHealth and the Alcohol, Drug, Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board.  For more information on where the money goes from the HHS levies, please read the County Budgeting Matters ”Get to Know the Health and Human Services Levy from 2017.

The levy on the upcoming ballot is, at 3.9 mills, the smaller of two HHS levies. It generates approximately $108 million per year Click To Tweet

The Budish Administration had originally proposed to extend the levy for four years, but County Council is now considering a 2-year extension. Council Budget Advisor Trevor McAleer explained to the Committee that if the 2-year extension passes, voters will then be asked to pass an 8-year extension on the 2020 ballot.  The other HHS levy, passed for eight years in 2016, will expire in 2024, meaning that assuming the smaller levy passes this year, moving forward, voters will be asked to vote for an HHS levy every 4 years.

Council President Dan Brady spoke in favor of the proposal to extend the levy for only two years.  He described how the voters have historically been supportive of Health and Human Services.

Councilwoman Baker expressed concern about the frequency of levies on the ballot. She said she supports the levies, and appreciates the overall support from County voters, but said she worries levy fatigue could endanger the passage of future levies which would be of major concern to levy-funded organizations. Parjewiec testified that he understood the concern, but also shared that an additional benefit to a 2-year extension is that the County is also undergoing property reappraisal, and two years from now, the County will have a clearer understanding of revenue projections and will be able to plan more accurately.

The levy was passed to the full Council under second reading suspension.

*Update* The levy extension was approved and will be on the May 8th, 2018 ballot.

SALVATION ARMY

The next item for discussion was a contract for $537,741 for the Salvation Army.  Testifying on behalf of the Budish Administration was the Administrator of the Office of Homeless Services, Ruth Gillett.

The funding is for homeless, single men, who need “rapid rehousing” in order to help them on a short-term basis, and allow them to find full time housing and/or sustainable income.  The contract was awarded to the Harbor Light complex, located at East 17th and Prospect Avenues.

Councilwoman Baker asked how the Salvation Army and the County differentiated employment opportunities and skillsets for a man in his mid-30s compared to a man in his early 50s. Currently, the County only counts program participants as “over 35” and “under 35.” Bo Hill represented the Salvation Army, and testified that the organization addresses each individual on a case-by-case basis.  Hill said that the Salvation Army recognizes that a “cookie cutter” approach to connect a homeless individual to support services based on his age range may not be the most effective method. Therefore, the organization uses age ranges only for tracking purposes, and treats each person individually when connecting them to employment opportunities.

Councilman Miller asked Gillett if there is a similar program for women, she replied that there is a temporary housing program for both men and women that includes shelters like North Point Transitional Housing.  North Point has a capacity of 180 people, and it offers this type of program for single men and women.

Hill said that all of the referrals to the Salvation Army’s rapid rehousing program come from the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries men’s homeless shelter at 2100 Lakeside.

Discussion of this specific contract, turned into a conversation about the timelines in which HHS contracts are created and sent to Council for consideration.  The Salvation Army contract officially began on October 1, 2017 and is supposed to run until September 31, 2018.  However, the contract was considered for the first time at the January meeting – three months after the contract began.  The request is post-dated, at least in part, because the contract funding includes federal money from the Housing and Urban Development department, and federal process timelines prevented the contract from being heard earlier.

The contract was moved to the full Council under second reading suspension.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE

Al Grimes, presenting on a contract for the Fatherhood Initiative, was next on the agenda.  The Initiative is funded by HHS levy funds, and provides different programming with the goals of reducing teen parenthood, as well as educating fathers-to-be on the basics of parenting.  The contract before the committee was a master contract that works with 11 providers that were approved through the RFP process. The total of the awards was $832,000. The contract would run from January 1 through December 31, 2018

Councilman Miller remarked that anything that encourages the involvement of both parents is helpful in both the short and long term, and a good thing for the County to do.

Councilwoman Baker wanted to know how the fatherhood programs evaluate success. Grimes testified that evaluations are given at the beginning and the end of the programming. He said there are also other non-measurable effects, such as classes that can teach useful information about caring for infants, which could result in lower instances of infant mortality.

The contract was passed onto the full Council under second reading suspension.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES

The next contract up for discussion was worth $1.2 million, between the County and the Cuyahoga Board of Developmental Disabilities. Bob Math, from the Department of Health and Human Services, on behalf of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), testified this is a contract match for federal funding.  The funding is used to house children with disabilities who are in the custody of DCFS, most of whom live in group homes or residential facilities.  Many of the services are covered under Medicaid. The contract lasts for two years, and runs from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019.

Cara Davis, program administrator for the Department of and Chuck Correa from the Department of Developmental Disabilities, both answered questions from Councilmembers, including questions from Councilwoman Baker about how long children are covered under this contract and at what age they will no longer be covered.

Councilwoman Brown sought to understand the relationship between the $1.2 million request and any federal funds that will be used for the children in the custody of DCFS.  Correa indicated that Medicaid pays 60 percent of the overall costs associated with this contract and the $1.2 million in the contract is the other 40% that is used as a match for the federal funds. The County dollars are HHS levy dollars.

The contract was passed out of committee to the full Council via second reading suspension.

YOUTH OPPORTUNITIES UNLIMITED

The last item on the agenda was a summer employment master contract for Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.). Y.O.U. funds several youth employment programs, through a mixture of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and ) funding, as well as County Health and Human Services dollars and money from the City of Cleveland.

David Merriman, Assistant Director of the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services department, testified in favor of the nearly $8.7 million spending authorization. The money is a contract extension through December 31, 2018. Initially the program was called the Summer Youth Employment Program, it has since been renamed the Cuyahoga County Internship Program.

Merriman and Y.O.U. officials testified that they had received more than 14,000 applications for the program last year, and that it was able to serve 3,300 young adults ages 14 to 24. One thousand eight hundred of the 3,300 were between the ages of 18-24.  Eighty-three percent of participants who began the program completed it, and the program boasts a 94 percent satisfaction rate in participant surveys. Merriman also noted that the county is increasingly working with youth who are returning from the Department of Youth Services (i.e. incarceration).

Committee Chairwoman Conwell questioned why the summer employment contract with Y.O.U. is a contract extension. She expressed concerns that the extension could be perceived as a workaround to putting the contract out for bid through the RFP process. Merriman argued that by not passing the extension at this late point in the process, the County risked harming the relationship with Y.O.U., and risked successfully implementing the 2018 programs.

After Chairwoman Conwell’s sentiments about the importance of the RFP process were echoed by Councilpersons Baker, Houser, and Brown, the Y.O.U. contract extension was passed under second reading suspension to the full Council.

After several public comments, the meeting was adjourned.