New options coming for helping people get off public assistance

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New options coming for helping people get off public assistance

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Latoya Jones, left, client relations manager with staffing agency BC Forward, interviews Troy Mallicote for a position at Zerox warehouse during a hiring event at Ohio Means Jobs Wednesday, June 14 in Fairfield. Butler County Job and Family Services is planning to makes some changes in the way they deliver public assistance, including job training programs like the ones offered at Ohio Means Jobs. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Butler County Job and Family Services will be changing the way they help people get off public assistance and into good jobs with added programs, such as life skills classes.

JFS Executive Director Bill Morrison was looking for more “robust” options to help people and he says he believes he got it with 10 new proposals submitted by numerous Butler County and some out-of-county service providers. He said probably the most critical part of the new plan is to be able to truly assess a person’s barriers to success.

“I think we’ve got several really sound approaches to developing assessments with organizations we have a good trusting relationships with,” Morrison said. “I’m sure we’ll be able to improve that process dramatically. There’s several different proposals that include that piece and although it’s not new and innovative, it is new and innovative in this arena.”

Several months ago the commissioners put on hold a $1.75 million renewal contract with Community Behavioral Health because the employment situation has changed dramatically since they first entered the partnership. The county contracted with CBH several years ago to help people with mental health and other issues who are on public assistance get and keep jobs.

He is modeling the programs after Commissioner Cindy Carpenter’s Motherhood and Maternity Addiction Services (MAMAS) wrap around program to get drug-addicted mothers clean which has been a success story.

The MAMAS program includes residential treatment, recovery housing, life skills training, job search assistance and a support system, among other services.

Morrison said he received three proposals for assessment services; two from substance abuse specialists and five training “that kind of runs the gamut from specific training and basic computer skills to more how to live your life training, like how to budget, how to manage money and how to do things in order to be successful.”

County Administrator Charlie Young acknowledged that the whole social services realm here needed improvement and the agency kicked it off with a complete overhaul of Children Services in 2014. The agency held a series of meetings with stakeholders and ended up making a series of changes that have resulted in fewer children being taken into custody.

An independent research study the agency commissioned bears out the supposition the revamp was a success.

“The results of this study combined with current research add to the ‘superiority of this model,’” according to the report. “This study showed that stronger alliances were associated with lower rates of child removal from the home, as well as higher rates of family reunification and suggested that a better working alliance may lead to a lower need for ongoing services.”

Morrison has also begun implementing other changes at JFS that involve work flow.

“We have recognized that we need to change how we approach our work and we’ve implemented a lot of changes,” Young said. “Certainly in Children Services we’ve seen improvement. But also in JFS, we’re seeing improvements in processing time and that’s what JFS does to a large extent is process requests. Whether it’s food stamps or Medicaid, some type of assistance, it is trying to get it turned around to where the issue is dealt with quicker, more effectively, with fewer errors.”

Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association, said Butler County is very innovative in its approach to finding better ways to serve their clients, or “building a better mousetrap” as he put it. He said a prime example is the opiate epidemic has inundated most other Children Services agencies in the state but here the caseloads are manageable.

“Butler is very progressive in how they approach public assistance programs and services and child welfare. I know they’ve had a lot of real successes …,” Potts said. “They are very good at pushing the envelope and looking to see ‘how can we do things better’.”

Morrison said he hopes to have three or four new contracts awarded by the end of September.

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