Programs that Help Underserved Populations Highlight September 21, 2016, HHSA Meeting

At the September 21, 2016, meeting of the Cuyahoga County Health, Human Services and Aging Committee, Council members heard testimony from David Merriman, administrator of Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services (JFS), and Walter Parfejewiec, chief fiscal officer, Department of Health and Human Services, to present a two-year, $8 million contract award to Americab Transportation for 2017 and 2018. This service allows for non-emergency medical transportation, including appointments to radiology, chemotherapy, and treatment for patients who are addicted to painkillers. The contract is 100 percent funded with federal dollars through Medicaid. Americab is the current medical transportation provider for the county and has been previously awarded the 2-year contract twice. Currently, Americab serves 600 county clients a month, providing 20,000 rides a month. There were two respondents to the RFP that JFS issued, but one was disqualified. The Americab RFP bid said that the cost per ride would average $15.22. There was a lengthy discussion about a “bid bond” and the ability for the county to guarantee that the service being provided is worthy of the contract, especially given that there is no second provider if Americab does not deliver on the quality of service. Sarah Cammock, assistant law director for the county, said that she would provide more information to Councilmembers about the difference between a “bid bond” and a “performance bond,” which is used to award money on a contract based on satisfaction by the county of the performance of a vendor.

The second item that was discussed was the extension of a contract with Catholic Charities to June, 2017. When a citizen comes to the county requesting cash assistance through the Ohio Works First program, that person is referred to Catholic Charities, which then provides them with pre-employment screening and helps clients to overcome barriers to employment. The pre-employment screening was done by the county initially, and separately by Catholic Charities. The decision was made to have the service be exclusively provided by Catholic Charities, through amending a contract that was signed in 2015, which allows for the county to concentrate its efforts on other services for customers. The contract extension is for $977,321, which will bring the total contract amount between the county and Catholic Charities to approximately $1.8M. HHSA Committee Chairman, Councilman Pernel Jones Jr. asked Merriman about the administration’s vision for workforce development.  Merriman responded that the administration is approaching it with a three-step plan path. No matter where an individual may find themselves on the career spectrum, the plan is to: 1) help individuals who are on assistance and get them to a career path; 2) get citizens access to resources, training, and overcoming any barriers to employment, including working with career coaches; and 3) place individuals in jobs that pay better wages.

After the discussion, the committee voted on whether to advance the contract amendment request to the entire County Council.  The vote was 3-1, with Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell voting against the measure.

The committee then heard a presentation from Adam Jacobs, president of Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau (JCB) and Wingspan Care Group, who gave a refresher presentation about changes in Medicaid at the state level and how they impact children and County residents.

The final item discussed at the meeting was a resolution for a contract extension between Cuyahoga County and the Salvation Army for the P.A.S.S. Program. In testimony provided to the Committee, Ruth Gillett, manager for the Office of Homeless Services, said that the Pick Up, Assessment, Shelter & Services (P.A.S.S.) program is a federally funded transitional housing program for homeless men.  The program is currently at capacity with 75 participants; individuals can stay in the housing program up to two years.  According to Gillett, all clients are referred from 2100 Lakeside. Over the past year, over 200 individuals have been served. The average length of stay is six months. Of those who transition out of the program, many leave as they have successfully achieved employment or Medicaid funding to assist with access to medical care; 90 percent exit with food stamps, and 76 percent exit to permanent housing. Council didn’t have many questions, but a few did stand out. Committee Chair Pernel Jones asked if this Homeless Services initiative interfaces with Cuyahoga County JFS. Gillett said that they have tried to talk to JFS more in recent months, especially around programming involving youth. Councilman Dale Miller wanted to know what happens to the 24 percent that do not find permanent housing.  Gillett said that 12 percent go back to the homeless shelter, and the other 12 percent go to temporary shelter with family or friends. Councilwoman Shontel Brown wanted to verify that all participants go through coordinated entry through the county before being assigned to the P.A.S.S. program. Gillett confirmed that is the case.

The resolution was forwarded to the full council for consideration.