HEALTH DEPARTMENT: HUMAN SERVICES CABINET

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HEALTH DEPARTMENT: HUMAN SERVICES CABINET

 

Problem Identification:
Policymaking, programmatic, and financial coordination among Baltimore’s human service-related entities needs improvement.

Recommended Action:
Establish a Human Services Cabinet to enhance collaboration and communications among entities serving shared populations and to develop strategies to mitigate the ‘silo effect’ that occurs as a result of multiple funding streams.

Classification:
Cost Savings, Organizational, Revenue Enhancement, Service Improvement

Functional/Operational Area:
All Departmental Operations

Estimated Annual Impact:
Cannot be Estimated

Estimated Implementation Cost:
None

Barriers to Implementation:
None

Projected Implementation:
30 – 60 days

Next Steps:
Develop a list of Baltimore’s critical public and non-profit human service entities, have the Mayor extend invitations to the leaders of each of these entities to serve in a Human Services Cabinet, and convene regular monthly meetings to develop and implement strategies to coordinate initiatives and fully leverage collective financial resources.

Analysis:
Public health represents a significant element of the health and human services continuum of care that is accessed by Baltimore’s citizens. Ultimately, the Department’s ability to execute its stated mission, i.e. – ‘To ensure all Baltimoreans access to comprehensive, quality health services and care, as well as to ensure a healthy environment’ is inextricably dependent upon the efforts of other public, private, and non-profit entities with complementary missions.

In Baltimore, there is no shortage of issues where collaboration and partnerships are abundantly necessary. These issues include drug abuse, violence, gun violence, lead paint, school readiness, and homelessness.

Despite the existence of complementary missions and shared priorities, collaboration does not come easily. Funding streams, the lifeblood of health and human service entities, can create barriers to cooperation by dictating organizational focus and reducing incentives to partner.

Convening a cabinet to develop strategies to manage these issues could provide entities an opportunity to better integrate programmatic initiatives, identify duplicative efforts and gaps in the level of services provided, and fully leverage available resources to maximize service impacts. In addition to the Health Department, potential City government entities that should be considered for inclusion in the cabinet are representatives of the Baltimore City Public School System, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Police Department, and the Departments of Housing and Community Development and Recreation and Parks.

Task forces, working groups, and cabinets are popular organizational mechanisms that frequently come to life in response to immediate, short-term needs. Their creation, however, is sometimes greeted with skepticism by participating members, and sustaining their efforts beyond the initial crisis can prove challenging in the absence of decisive leadership. While this was an attitude encountered within some pockets of the Health Department, it in no way diminishes the remaining need.