On Tuesday, the Ohio House Community and Family Advancement Committee traveled to Cincinnati to learn more about CityLink Center and its partners to explore the social service integration and co-location model. The House Committee, chair, Representative Tim Derickson, (R-Oxford), called CityLink:
“An organization he’d like to see established throughout the state…I’m grateful for your approach to the whole person,” Derickson said. “If I could pick you up and take you around the state, I’d plant you everywhere I could.”
The Committee is holding a series of hearings across the state to examine the effects of poverty on families and the ways that the state can help contribute to the solution. Learn more about the valuable and productive hearing that featured testimonies from not only CityLink, but our partners at Cincinnati Works, Nehemiah Manufacturing, City Gospel Mission, Cincinnati State and others in the full Hannah News Report below:
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Traveling House Panel Explores Social Service Integration, Co-Location
The House Community and Family Advancement Committee traveled Tuesday to Cincinnati to see the work of the CityLink Center, which committee Chairman Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Oxford) called an organization he’d like to see established throughout the state.
CityLink was established in 2012 and began operating in 2013 with the aim of integrating the work of social service agencies in the region and is supported by educational, government, faith and philanthropic groups.
CityLink brings more than a dozen service providers together in one facility. Johnmark Oudersluys, executive director of the center, said putting all the agencies under one roof removes several challenges encountered regularly by service providers and those in need, including the emotional toll on those in poverty of seeking help. Without co-location, “We’re asking them to walk from door to door and repeat their story of why they’re in need,” he said.
Co-location and the center’s integrated case management also enable a “soft handoff” among providers to address a person’s entire range of needs and challenges. A standalone financial education provider faced with someone whose current wages will never meet his family’s needs is left in a bind, Oudersluys said. The provider can send him somewhere else for employment services and training, or can leave their area of expertise to try to help fill the need. That sparks a “culture of referral and scope creep,” he said.
The integrated model also creates economies of scale that enable a level of volunteer development and coordination that might not be possible for small agencies on their own, Oudersluys said. Churches spanning several denominations were involved in the center’s founding, and he said faith plays an important role in its work.
“This increased compassion and competency that volunteers bring is equally important. Clients routinely report to us that ‘This place feels different to me, that I feel the spirit of God in this place,'” Oudersluys said.
“I’m grateful for your approach to the whole person,” Derickson said. “If I could pick you up and take you around the state, I’d plant you everywhere I could.”
After the hearing, Derickson said the element of faith in CityLink’s work stood out to him as a strong theme of Tuesday’s hearing.
Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) asked how lawmakers can create a more consistent and supportive system that doesn’t create a “cliff effect” where moving off benefits into work leaves people worse off
financially than before.
“We see that we are financially disincentivizing people from getting employed and taking raises, period,” Oudersluys said. “As a fiscal conservative, that is not something I am proud of, that we are disincentivizing people from advancing their lives.”
The complexity of the interplay between work, wages and benefit cliffs can be paralyzing, he said, noting the importance of having a financial education provider on-site at CityLink to help people understand the system and make a plan.
Peggy Zink, president of Cincinnati Works, which focuses on preparing people to find and keep jobs, said the model at CityLink is “perhaps the closest” example of what lawmakers and the Kasich administration envisioned when enacting a new integrated case management system as part of the biennial budget.
“We are executing it without silos … there’s follow-up, there’s closure. I think it embodies and makes real the concept we are trying to promote at the state level,” Zink said. “The initial job placement is not where it ends … the importance of continuing to walk the journey with individuals as they build that stability and advance to higher levels of stability is an important part of the model.”
Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), lead Democrat on the committee, asked Zink about the challenge of capacity, noting Cincinnati Works has served several hundred people in recent years. “You look at a place like Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland area, where we’re talking thousands, thousands of people,” Howse said.
“I think we’re all trying to wrap our minds around capacity,” Zink said, saying a mindset change among providers is part of the answer.
“Somehow we’ve got to get that long-term perspective and that holistic perspective built in,” Zink said.
Derickson, noting that Cincinnati Works has additional flexibility by dint of its private funding, asked how the state can do better with employment services.
Zink said while her organization is now accepting about 90 percent of those interested, they won’t accept everyone. “We don’t want to bring people in and not know that there are employers on the other end willing to work with them,” she said. For example, people with criminal records who apply might be excluded because of the likelihood employers won’t look past that record. Zink said any work the state can do to encourage employers to be more accepting would enable Cincinnati Works to assist more people.
Dan Meyer of Nehemiah Manufacturing gave the example of one business that is willing to hire those with criminal records, calling his outfit a “profit with a purpose company” that hires from a pool of people who need a second chance.
“When I say second chance, I mean so many challenges no one’s going to give them an opportunity. Most of them have a felony in their background,” Meyer said.
But Meyer said his company, now 100 workers strong, can’t hire fast enough to keep pace with how many people leave jails and prisons in the region each year, so they’ve started the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, which encourages more employers to work with those who have criminal records.
Nehemiah depends on Cincinnati Works to get people job ready and ensure they’re motivated to work. “We have a pretty powerful ecosystem. We can’t do what we do without Johnmark and Peggy’s work,” Meyer said.
The committee started its day with a tour of Oyler School, oft-cited as the exemplar for the community learning center model, which embeds social and health services within a school. Lawmakers enabled expansion of the model this summer with passage of HB70 (Brenner-Driehaus).
Darlene Kamine, executive director of the Community Learning Center Institute, said after a long period of levy failures and declining enrollment, Cincinnati Public Schools used the opportunity of new school construction through the Ohio School Facilities Commission to restore schools as a center of the community and a hub for culture, recreation and health.
Kamine said two related points are key to success of the center model: community engagement and site-based governance.
“We believe this is absolutely the foundation. It is grassroots from the beginning,” she said. “That kind of governance at the site level ensures that we are continuing to be responsive.”
Howse asked about the importance of cultural competence in delivering services in the schools.
“Having a real understanding or being open to learning is really important,” Kamine said, describing Cincinnati’s neighborhoods as sometimes seeming to be their own countries.
Sherry Marshall, president and CEO of the Ohio Workforce Investment Board, offered caution on the state’s new case management policy, saying redirection of federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding to the population served by federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs could put Ohio’s ability to meet WIOA benchmarks at risk.
Marshall also noted the importance of having willing job seekers to achieving success in job placements, describing the results of two recent pilot programs. The first trained eight 19- to 21-year-old young fathers for pre-apprenticeship certifications. All eight were offered positions with professional construction unions but only three accepted jobs and none are still working in their apprenticeships now. A second pilot focused on women in manufacturing. Of 204 women contacted, seven showed up and received high enough aptitude test scores to start the program, five then showed up for information and orientation and to start the training, four passed the program and were offered jobs, three accepted, but none showed up on the first day of work. “Their explanations were varied, but none were compelling,” Marshall’s testimony stated.
O’dell Owens, president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, said his institution aims to serve “those who are trying to work their way into the middle class,” noting the majority of his students have a job before graduation, and far more of them stay in their communities than graduates of four-year institutions.
Owens and Howse discussed the challenges of finding aid funding for students pursuing non-credit programs or certificates. Owens said one of his main goals is to ensure everyone leaves Cincinnati State with something, even if they don’t complete a degree. Having taken a computer skills or food safety course will provide some the opportunity to find a job, he said.
After the hearing, Derickson said the issue of Ohio College Opportunity Grant Funding for non-credit programs also stood out to him, particularly after it was mentioned at the committee’s previous field hearing in Cleveland. (See The Hannah Report, 8/12/15.)
Derickson said he anticipates writing a report from the committee’s field hearings that can serve as a reference for people involved in anti-poverty and workforce development efforts. He said the hearings weren’t launched with specific legislation in mind but will likely result in new proposals from members picking up on the meetings’ recurrent themes.
Derickson said the hearings should be helpful in crafting the grant criteria for state funding to local Healthier Buckeye councils. The recently signed state budget set aside $11.5 million to assist local efforts under the Healthier Buckeye initiative, a proposal from House Republicans to promote coordination within communities on social services and workforce programs.
The committee also heard testimony Tuesday from representatives from Cincinnati Arts & Technology Center, City Gospel Mission, Butler County Educational Service Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the Partners for a Competitive Workforce.
Written testimony from Tuesday’s hearing is available on the Hannah News website at www.hannah.com >Document Collections (lower right column)>Other>Library.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on August 18, 2015. Copyright 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc.
© Copyright 1986 – 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc. Columbus, Ohio. All Rights Reserved.
THE HANNAH COLLECTION