Turning exceptional successes into ordinary ones

150 150 John Guenther

Despite the time and energy devoted to sparring and parrying between state and local governments, cooperation and coordination between local groups and agencies with less involvement from Sacramento might actually accomplish the results and outcomes Californians have a right to expect from publicly funded programs.

California’s diverse communities can improve results if they have more control over locally administered services. They can spend less time on compliance reporting and more time improving outreach and performance. A number of California counties have taken advantage of a series of small-scale pilot programs that gave them increased flexibility and authority, while still holding them accountable for outcomes. These efforts not only improved results, they saved money, too.

Most of these pilot programs focus on a narrow subset of services. The Government Performance and Accountability Act (GPAA) would take this approach statewide, write it into the state Constitution so that every kind of local service, from public safety and educational programs to county health and welfare services, benefit from the increased authority, flexibility and accountability.

  1. Alameda County’s “Project Destiny” reduced disruptions in services to high-risk, multi-need children by 60 percent because of waivers it received to establish a public-private collaboration and program to assist families with at-home care.
  2. Welfare Work participants in Contra-Costa County work more hours and report greater earnings than welfare-to-work participants in the county as a whole because multi-disciplinary service integration teams were able to combine to reduce unnecessary paperwork and increase face-time with clients.
  3. Fresno County saw growth in the number of students scoring above the 50th percentile on the SATs, as well as reduction in neighborhood crime, improved school attendance and increased kindergarten immunization because it was able to reclassify $300,000 in funding to support seven neighborhood resource centers.
  4. Placer County reduced the number of children needing foster care by 20 percent because it was able to consolidate the claims and reporting of 14 health programs in its Health and Human Services Agency.
  5. By integrating health and human service programs, San Diego County reduced homelessness by 67 percent, emergency room visits by 33 percent and the need for jail beds by 14 percent when it worked with existing administrative structures to strengthen county neighborhood collaboratives and expand seven neighborhood centers.

Without decisive, comprehensive reform, local governments will continue to muddle along much as they currently do – through an arbitrary and ineffective patchwork of programs that meet the performance and accountability requirements Californians are looking to achieve.

For more information about successful collaborative approaches to government, visit us at cafwd.org. Join us in making programs like these the rule, not the exception.


John Guenther

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