Funding Tips from the Stepping Up Summit

We are fortunate that Dane County was one of 50 counties–out of more than 200 applicants–selected to send a team to the Stepping Up Summit.  The rest of us, however, can follow the proceedings online.  Check them out here.

“Strategies for Financing your Plan” opened with the moderator’s comment that no advice is more frustrating or frequent for advocates in search of money than “leverage your existing resources.”  Existing resources are not enough to meet the need, he acknowledged, and introduced a panel who provided practical advice of how to expand those resources.

Tracy Plouck, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, told the audience to set up an appointment with the state Medicaid director to explore options and suggested they enroll people in Medicaid who are leaving jail or in a diversion program because health and other entitlement programs might help them avoid future incarceration.  She said that a state’s substance abuse block grant is “more robust” than its mental health block grant.  Many people have a dual diagnosis, so advocates should first explore substance abuse money.

John Wetzel, Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said that his primary interest is “self-interest.”  He wants to see how expenditure of money from his department for programs ultimately will reduce future costs in housing inmates.  Either programs are feeders, producing more people in prison, or filters, reducing that number, he said.  Advocates must show that they are providing filters and, thus, reducing costs to his department.

Wetzel told the group to talk to the state’s corrections director.  He or she might be “your biggest advocate.”  He also reminded the group that “long-term thinking at the state level is the next election.”

Andrew Keller, CEO of the Meadows Foundation, told the group to regard foundation money as “transformational money,” which can be used to support activities such as planning that are not easily funded by traditional sources. A grant from a well-regarded foundation can lead to grants from other sources and to interest from individual philanthropists. Those individuals are often able to secure political support for the reform efforts.

Maury Thompson, Assistant County Manager of Johnson County, KS, spoke about the wariness of county officials to accept federal grants because of their time limitations.  His solution: establish benchmarks and collect data from the beginning that can be used to show the cost-effectiveness to the county of the grant.  He suggested approaching institutions such as hospitals that benefit financially from a reduction in admissions to emergency rooms due to better mental health services.   Similarly, the state benefits from a reduction in admissions to state psychiatric hospitals.








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