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The MHSC Scan -- March 1997

MHSC is a nonprofit corporation that focuses on designing and developing effective, well-functioning human services systems that improve the quality of life for area residents. MHSC provides a variety of planning assistance and resources to members of the human services systems in Columbus and Franklin County. The Commission is funded by Franklin County, City of Columbus and the United Way of Franklin County.

Questions or comments regarding MSHC’s SCAN can be directed to Michael Kasler or Claudia Herrold, MHSC, 360 S. Third Street, Columbus, OH 43215 (614.224-1336) or via email to Claudia@pie.mhsc.org.

SAVE THE DATE

In Search of Outcomes, a symposium on the use of outcomes in planning for human services, will be held on May --, 1997. The day-long training event will be led by Eve Berry, vice-president of The Grantsmanship Center. Ms. Berry has extensive training experience in corporate, educational, government and nonprofit arenas. In working with symposium cosponsors, Ms. Berry has emphasized the need for the symposium to offer participants hands-on work in developing outcomes within an appropriate planning context. Additionally, she says, “The conference is designed to ‘lead by example,’ producing measurable outcomes of the attendees and the organizations they represent.” Registration materials will be mailed during mid-March.

MHSC Annual Awards Luncheon Set for April 23

Mark your calendars now for MHSC’s annual meeting and luncheon, which will be held at noon on April 23 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The Grace Kindig and Barry Mastrine Awards will be presented at that time and MHSC will celebrate its twenty years of community planning. Invitations to the luncheon will be mailed in mid-March.

Prevention Institute Partners Unveil “Promise of a New Day”

The Franklin County Prevention Institute presented its planning framework to prevent and treat substance abuse in late January. Titled “Promise of a New Day,” the framework provides a comprehensive approach to both prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including county-wide strategies and recommendations. It focuses on four core areas -- education, media, workplaces, and neighborhoods -- for prevention and treatment efforts. At its core is a vision of Franklin County where residents experience “a future free from the harm associated with alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse.”

Fact: 44% of Franklin County’s high school seniors reported they regularly use alcohol.

Promise of a New Day provides direction for the work of agencies, funding systems, community groups and individuals. It does this by setting three community goals aimed at achieving the framework-defined community mission: to prevent harm from substance abuse. The three goals, focused on all people and their conditions related to substance abuse, are:

1. Eliminate harm to infants and preschoolers.

2. Eliminate harm to children and youth.

3. Eliminate harm to adults.

Fact: Of the 9600 Franklin County deaths each year, over one-quarter are attributable to alcohol, illicit drug or tobacco use.

The planning framework emphasizes the need to unite community efforts around substance abuse prevention. This is accomplished by documenting shared goals and tracking the community’s progress toward achieving them. Additionally, Promise for a New Day creates a process that agencies will agree to use in developing objectives to guide programs and services. (See related article - Five Step Process.)

Fact: Substance abuse is the #1 preventable health problem in Franklin County, causing more deaths, illnesses and disabilities than any other preventable condition.

The Prevention Institute was created five years ago with a $2 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. ADAMH has administered the grant, and its President, Dr. Philip Cass serves as an ex officio member of the Partnership. The Institute has served as a community resource and as a center for the study of alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse prevention. It is a partnership of 60 organizational members, with extensive involvement of grassroots organizations and community members as well as human service providers and government funders. The Partners spent three years developing the Promise framework. According to Institute Executive Director Bill Crimi, this was done, “To ensure the strategies were not based solely on theory, but on real experience, we based them on the results from local focus groups, local and state studies and interviews, current prevention literature and a plethora of substance abuse statistics.”

United Way President Brian Gallagher commented on Promise during the Institute’s Annual Meeting saying, “We’re most excited about it, from the United Way perspective, because we share the aspiration of reducing the abuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.” Mr. Gallagher stated that he plans to deliver copies of the framework to United Way volunteers to use in their planning efforts and urged people to “check our agendas at the door as we begin this work, working together to do what’s best for our community.”

Fact: 39.6% of all Columbus traffic deaths in 1995 were alcohol-related.

MHSC President Michael Kasler, who participated as a member of the Partnership, sees the Institute and community poised at a crucial point, moving beyond the thinking stage to the doing stage. He believes that, “The Prevention Institute has developed a thoughtful, comprehensive plan which, if fully implemented, can have a significant impact on the health of people in our community. Now it’s time to act, and Promise of a New Day tells us how. Implementing the framework means that each prevention agency, local physical and mental health board, the United Way, every school, police department, church and community association needs to declare its intention, coordinate efforts, provide resources and track its progress toward meeting the goal of reducing harm from substance abuse.” To Kasler’s way of thinking, this kind of behavior is what community people have been expecting all along: that all sectors plan together, work together and measure the results of their work. Promise of a New Day makes these expectations explicit and clear and “tells us all how to be answerable to the people.”

Kasler also believes that MHSC’s previous and continued participation in the Institute, through his work and that of staff member Doug Zelinski, is an example of MHSC fulfilling its mission of working with members of the human services systems and community to improve the quality of life for area residents. Zelinski, who received a Partner in Prevention Award at the Insitute’s annual meeting for his primary role in developing the framework, will assist with implementing the framework during 1997.

Fact: Fetal exposure to drugs and alcohol is a leading cause of mental retardation in infants and children.

1. MHSC Applauds Institute’s Framework

MHSC believes that Promise of a New Day does indeed hold out the promise for a healthier community and commends the Franklin County Prevention Institute for its thoughtful, well-developed, comprehensive planning framework. Most importantly, perhaps, is that Promise of a New Day illustrates that high quality, comprehensive community planning is actually achievable. Promise addresses all of the controversies and challenges which for years have thrown up barriers to collaborative planning efforts throughout the community. It lays out the blueprint for the public accounting of how dollars are spent, what is trying to be accomplished and what actually does get accomplished. Other strengths of the framework include:

It is people-centered, focusing on community residents and their condition.

It is inclusive, addressing all forms of substance abuse and all ages.

It is flexible, accomodating the variety of strategies that will be required to address substance abuse.

It tracks results based on real changes in community health.

The same kind of planning effort is needed for other areas and populations, such as for older adults and around employment issues. Such planning is necessary if a community wants to move ahead to achieve real, enduring change. The problems facing our community are too complex for simplistic solutions that can be implemented unilaterally; agencies, individuals, government and businesses must work together to be successful.

Whether or not Promise is fulfilled depends on the willingness of agencies, public institutions and the community to commit themselves to full implementation of the framework that has been so carefully designed. MHSC hope that the implementation is successful, and pledges itself to helping that happen.

2. Standing Committee set to review framework’s use by levy-funded systems

MHSC’s Standing Committee for Levy-Funded Human Services has informed the Prevention Institute that it plans to monitor any commitments and progress that ADAMH and FCCS might make regarding Promise of a New Day. The Committee, which is composed of MHSC Board members and community volunteers, provides ongoing monitoring and reviews levy requests of ADAMH and FCCS, which are Prevention Institute Partners.

In a letter to Institute’s Partnership Chair Richard Morgan, Standing Committee Chair Tony Celebrezze pointed out that the Standing Committee “has long advocated for increased emphasis on prevention in all aspects of hman services in our community.” Celebrezze assured the Institute that in the Committee’s ongoing monitoring, “we will continuously be alert to their participation in implementing their respective roles in the plan.”

3. Promise Outlines Five Step Process

Promise of a New Day lays out a five-step process that agencies will consider using to direct their efforts and track progress toward reaching the community goals of eliminating harm from substance abuse for all age groups. According to the Promise report (p. 12), these steps are:

1. Each ageny identifies which goal and success indicators it will address.

2. Agencies working on common goals come together to negotiate the details of their individual workplans, strategic decisions, and evaluation activities. Through this common work, agencies can identify ways of combining their strengths to achieve more than would be possible through isolated individual efforts.

3. When these negotiations are complete and agencies are clear about their roles, each agency will develop its integrated set of health status, risk reduction and strategy objectives.

4. The FCPI Partnership will then review each agency’s objectives.

5. Following their acceptance, each set of objectives will constitute that agency’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Partnership and with the community. Each memorandum will include commitments to track progress on each objective.

According to the framework, once the Memoranda are in place, agencies will implement their program activities and measure their results. It is Promise’s hope, that “With committed effort over the long-term, the outcomes of the many programs will combine to bring about the large scale change that will mark success for our community.”

Setting One’s Sights

Part III in our series about the use of outcomes in human services planning

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where ---” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“So long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

This exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat could, with a little stage preparation and imagination, be presented as the keynote address at the upcoming symposium on the use of outcomes in human services planning. MHSC vice president Bill Bell could play the part of the Cat and any number of other staff members could audition for the role of Alice. MHSC isn’t the first to see the analogy in this conversation; Michael Patton, in his book Practical Evaluation, goes so far as to suggest that Alice “might have hired the Cat as a management consultant to help her clarify her goals and objectives.”

In a light-hearted manner, the conversation between Alice and the Cat points out a primary axiom of good planning: establishing where you want to go is a necessary and vital first step in any endeavor. The importance of this first step will be part of the planning context provided at the upcoming symposium, In Search of Outcomes, scheduled for this spring.

Why is direction-setting deemed so vital? Because if you don’t know where you are going, you can’t know when you’ve gotten there, and any way you choose will be okay. Most of us wouldn’t think of setting off on vacation without first deciding where we were headed. Knowing you’ll be relaxing on a sunny beach lets you make decisions about how to get there and what to take. Yet, it frequently seems that human services organizations do not take the time to figure out where they want to go before they set off in search of funding, programs, clients and -- outcomes.

Human services organizations aren’t alone in needing to set direction. It is equally vital that a community and systems set directions or visions for the future. The Franklin County Children’s Cabinet has done this, with acceptance of a vision for all children. The Prevention Institute has done this with its vision of a community where harm form substance abuse is eliminated. With these directions set, both entities can move forward to select goals, objectives and strategies and then to measure the results of these strategies on the condition of people in our community. Working together to adopt a common language and planning process to measure and document these results will be the focus of the symposium in May. It is important work that has the potential to move the community forward in improving the quality of life for all residents.