HHSA Committee concludes final contract year of former Tapestry program, hears update on May Dugan Center and Diversion Center plans

The Cuyahoga County Health, Human Services and Aging committee heard several important items at its March 3 meeting. The first item was a contract extension, another was a presentation from the May Dugan Center, and finally, an update on the Cuyahoga County Opioid Mitigation Fund.

The first item was the final extension of a master contract valued at $2,665,000, for a group of vendors known as the Family Centered Support System (FCSS), formerly called the Tapestry program. The vendors are: Applewood Centers, Inc. ($635,000), Beech Brook ($300,000), Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau ($115,000), Catholic Charities Corporation ($725,000), Cleveland Christian Home Inc. ($74,999.98), Mental Health Services for Homeless Persons, Inc. dba Frontline Service ($10,000.01), OhioGuidestone ($190,000), Ohio Mentor, Inc. ($70,000.01), Pressley Ridge ($435,000) and Specialized Alternative for Families and Youth of Ohio, Inc. ($110,000).

A new temporary diversion center will open in April 2021 at the Oriana House, located on East 55th Street.

The goal of these 10 vendors is to work with families and children by offering various wraparound services and therapy, designed to keep children in their homes with their families, rather than entering the out-of-home foster care system. The children eligible for these services range from six months to 18- years-old. Appearing at the hearing was David Merriman, Director of the county’s Division of Health and Human Services, Paul Porter, Manager of Contracts for the Division of Health and Human Services, and Karen Stormann, Program Administrator for the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Porter gave the majority of the presentation, explaining how the original contract was for one year, with two, one-year extensions. The contract amendment that was heard was for a second, and final, one-year extension. Later this year, the county will issue another request for proposals (RFP) for the contract. According to Stormann, the first two years of the contract were each worth $3.5 million, however, the county is requesting a one-year extension worth $2.6 million due to fewer families using the service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Providers could not go to homes to check on children, so many did so virtually.

Chairwoman Yvonne Conwell wanted to verify the breakdown of the funding sources for the contract. Porter said 33 percent of the contract funding comes from the two county Health and Human Services levies and the remaining amount is federally reimbursed from Title IV-E dollars. Councilman Marty Sweeney asked how organizations interested in applying would know about the upcoming RFP process. Dan Humphrey, Administrator of County Contracts for the Division of Health and Human Services, informed Sweeney that organizations interested in county contract opportunities can sign up for notifications when contracts are posted. The contract was passed under second reading suspension.

Rick Kemm, Executive Director for the May Dugan Center, provided a presentation to the committee, which included an overview of its history, current programming, and current capital campaign to enhance the facility.

Finally, the committee heard an update on the Cuyahoga County Opioid Mitigation Fund. Testifying on behalf of the administration was Brandy Carney, Chief of Special Operations for Cuyahoga County. The fund was comprised of $117 million received from pharmaceutical companies as a result of a judicial settlement. The county originally designated $23 million (dubbed Phase 1) in late 2019 to be distributed to several agencies, including the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) board and the new temporary Cuyahoga County Diversion Center. It was unclear, however, what the county would choose to do with the remaining dollars. According to Carney, all of the opioid fund dollars are one-time-only funds and many of the dollars funded staff for two years. That means organizations will likely come back to the county in 2022 for continued programming support from the fund.

Carney explained that the administration is proposing to allocate $60 million of the remaining $94 million for a future permanent diversion center. This includes five years of operating costs. The new temporary diversion center will open in April 2021 at the Oriana House, located on East 55th Street. The county also currently has an RFP out to provide supplemental after-care services for individuals treated at the diversion center. At the temporary center, stays average five to seven days, according to Carney.

The temporary county diversion center is expected to be in use for two years, and that a decision will need to be made soon on a location for a permanent center.

Following a question from Miller about the remaining dollars, after the designation of $60 million for a new diversion center, as well as the aforementioned RFP, Carney said that the county has approximately $20 to $25 million dollars left to be allocated. Carney went on to explain that the county is beginning to look at potential sites for a new, permanent diversion center, after the temporary diversion center is opened at Oriana House. The county is now looking at the former juvenile justice center, as the potential location of that diversion center. Miller, who chairs the county council’s Finance Committee, said that the administration just forwarded a request for $2.5 million to provide essential building upkeep, maintenance, and rehabilitation services at the former juvenile justice center. The building, located at the intersection of East 22nd and Central Avenue, is still owned by the county and is currently vacant. Miller expressed concern that, if the rehabilitation work is done for routine capital maintenance, the argument could be made in the future that the county should not let these dollars go to waste, and that would be used as a justification for why the new permanent diversion center should be built in that space. The administration has not yet undertaken a formal site search or selection process, unlike what the county is currently doing with the future Cuyahoga Council Justice Center, prompting Miller to ask the question.

Carney replied that the former juvenile justice facility has a lot of characteristics that are not easily found in potential locations: it is already owned by the county, and also offers access to both public transportation and highway transportation. Miller followed up by asking if the site is the only location under active consideration and if the administration’s “mind is made up.” Carney noted that while the facility is the primary site identified by the administration, it is not final. Pressed further by Miller, Carney said that the former juvenile justice center is the only site under active consideration.

Conwell asked about the timeline for a decision, as well as who would make the decision on the site-selection process. Carney said the temporary county diversion center is expected to be in use for two years, and that a decision will need to be made soon on the permanent location.

The committee was then adjourned.