Changes coming to human services delivery, funding

Montgomery County and the United Way are adopting a new way of coordinating services.

Changes to how Montgomery County and the United Way of Greater Dayton Area coordinate services will impact which services receive county and United Way funding, officials said.

The changes are aimed at improving services related to education and life skills, income and stability and health and safety.

Together, the county and United Way are working to adopt a “collective impact model” of service delivery.

The collective impact approach will unify efforts to improve important indicators impacting the quality of life for county residents.

“It’s a big change because it brings more people to the table,” said Tracy Sibbing, associate vice president of community impact with the United Way of the Greater Dayton Area. “I think this has the potential to have real impact and measurable change.”

Last year, Montgomery County and United Way hosted a series of panel discussions about high-level community priorities and needs. The events focused on current services for and challenges related to income and stability; education and life skills; and health and safety.

The county and United Way first partnered together in 2012 to make joint funding and resource allocation decisions.

The partnership has simplified the application process for funding and reduces the chances that services are duplicated or funded incorrectly, officials said.

Montgomery County is the lead provider of public funding for health and human service programs in the county. United Way is the lead private provider of funding.

County commissioners provided about $17.5 million in direct funding to nonprofit groups last year. That estimate does not include funding awarded through public agencies.

Feedback from the panels are being used to craft a strategic plan to enhance services, eliminate service gaps and achieve better outcomes, officials said.

The strategic planning process is expected to wrap up around April. Not long after that, the plan will be released so the community can discuss it and provide additional input.

Adopting the collective impact model will engage a far more diverse group of community stakeholders, including public agencies, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic groups, corporate foundations and private foundations, said Sibbing.

The approach will define a common agenda and priorities to better concentrate and coordinate efforts, and it will allow for shared measurements to gauge the effectiveness of services and service delivery, she said.

“For the time I’ve been in health and human service, I think it’s been a very siloed approach,” Sibbing said. “There wasn’t this level of communication and there wasn’t this level of intentionality.”

The goal is to better align service delivery so all service providers are working together toward shared goals to improve results for clients, said Tom Kelley, assistant county administrator for human services and the director of the Montgomery County Department of Job & Family Services.

Right now, nonprofit groups typically work independently of one another, and when they work together, it’s not by deliberate design, Kelley said. He said a more holistic approach should affect community change.

“The thing we intend to get out of this process is a better sense of collaboration among service providers,” Kelley said.

Sometime around June, the county and United Way will issue a request for proposals specifying the criteria they expect service providers to meet to achieve desired outcomes, Kelley said.

He said the hope is to award service contracts to nonprofit groups by the end of the year. The contracts would be set to begin in July 2017.

Local nonprofit groups will have to adapt to ensure their programs are in line with the overarching priorities and strategies.

The needs of the community are changing and health and human services programs must change to best serve clients, Kelley said.

Since 2012, which was the last time requests for proposals were completed, more residents have jobs and more people who received support have moved toward a higher level of self-sufficiency, Kelley said.

People increasingly may be in need services that support employment, such as transportation assistance, day care or programs that prepare people for post-secondary credentials, he said.

Despite improvements in the labor market, some daunting challenges remain.

A couple of years ago, Dayton was ranked the fourth hungriest city in the country; a more recent study said the Dayton area remains in the top 10 for food hardship.

Hunger and limited food access are among the issues that can negatively impact educational attainment, learning environments and household stability, officials said.