(Photo by Julie Zeglen)
Government doesn’t exist in a vacuum — each department’s actions affect others, especially when those departments serve the same subset of constituents.
Those constituents are better served when relevant departments work together, as a newly formed cabinet is hoping to discover.
The Health and Human Services Cabinet (HHS) combines five city departments — Public Health, Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Human Services, Supportive Housing, and Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) — into one formal entity that collectively serves vulnerable individuals and families.
That last department created the Shared Prosperity plan to fight poverty in July 2013. The departments of HHS will now support the plan with initiatives centered on barriers to employment; access to benefits and vital services; early learning; housing security; and economic security.
The cabinet will meet every two weeks to discuss its forthcoming goals and shared initiatives.
“We want to better understand who needs the services and who’s receiving services, and to work across departments” to do so, said Eva Gladstein, who was appointed deputy managing director of HHS on Jan. 4.
Gladstein had served as the executive director of CEO from 2013 and held both titles until last week, when Mitch Little was named the new executive director. Little previously served as CEO’s deputy director.
These agencies have worked together less formally in the past, but the forming of a cabinet is “more deliberate” Gladstein said. “It’s not just that the commissioners report to the same person.” Before, too, CEO had not been included in the informal cluster.
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Bringing these departments together will help each serve its clients more efficiently, she said: “We’re seeing opportunities for departments to work together more strongly.”
For instance, there’s an existing range of support offered to homeless individuals — Supportive Housing finds emergency housing, Behavioral Health finds transitional housing.
“Do we have the correct range of housing services to fill gaps and reduce redundancy of service?” Gladstein said. “Is there a way to make it less confusing for the person needing the service?”
A data management office will support these agencies as well so they can use each other’s data to better plan for new programs or to target resources that might increase efficiency, Gladstein said.