Butler County has taken the next step in providing meaningful help to those seeking employment while on public assistance and others hoping for help.
For years, Job and Family Services contracted with Community Behavioral Health to provide assistance in breaking down barriers to employment, such as substance abuse, mental health and transportation issues. From March 2016 through January 2017, CBH served 853 clients and had a job retention rate of 69 percent.
Last year, the commissioners questioned whether they should keep the contract with CBH, given vast changes in the employment landscape through the years, or seek different services. They said they weren’t displeased with the services CBH provided — new services have been added to adapt to changing times — but determined change was the best course.
“We don’t just renew contracts without checking to see their effectiveness,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers said.
JFS Executive Director Bill Morrison sent out a request for proposals, and the commissioners last week approved six contracts with five local providers totalling $654,655 annually for the first of three years.
The CBH contract was for $1.75 million over three years — about $570,000 per year — but Morrison said spending a little more on job assistance services is worth it.
“We were willing to go a little bit higher if we could do it successfully because there is so much public benefit moving people to work,” Morrison said. “I think it’s a good utilization of public funding in order to reduce the cost of public assistance.”
Morrison modeled the new 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.
The new JFS programs will offer substance abuse and mental health counseling but also employment preparation programs to identify and help bring down barriers to employment. Two contracts were awarded to Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF) for their “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ by World” and JOBS NOW programs, which offer life lessons and help with interview skills, resume writing, job searching online and “what to wear” for an interview tips, among other things.
One the biggest new components comes from Access Counseling Services, which will bring its job-seeking services to the Middletown area, since many people have trouble getting to the Ohio Means Jobs office in Fairfield, where the majority of the new services will be provided. Assistant JFS Director Shannon Glendon said they are also looking for other places in the community to locate these services.
“The idea of having multiple service providers, some of which provide similar services, is so that people have a choice and also so we can individualize those programs for people to address whatever those barriers are,” she said. “The primary outcome that we’re looking at for all these service providers is connecting people to meaningful employment that pays a livable wage.”
Glendon said they won’t just be serving people on public assistance with these programs, they will take referrals from Children Services, the courts, the child support agency and others.