State changes will preserve services children need

March 22, 2010|By Rosemary King Johnston

Maryland is at the forefront of a nationally recognized "system of care" innovation that ensures vulnerable children and families have access to services in their communities. The role of local management boards (LMBs) and changes that have been proposed need to be understood in this context.

There has been much discussion about the value of LMBs, along with many comments and recommendations about proposed changes to the LMB operating structure as outlined in the fiscal 2011 budget, which includes more than $15 million in funding for community-based services and programs for children, youth and their families.

There are 24 LMBs, one in each jurisdiction in Maryland. For the past 20 years, LMBs have coordinated changes in their communities that resulted in a better quality of life for children and their families. LMBs have:

•Led the way in returning and diverting children from out-of-state placements;

•Created interagency services for children at risk of out-of-home placements;

•Increased linkages between public and private agencies serving children and families; and

•Coordinated many community-level grants and initiatives.

Throughout these 20 years, the Governor's Office for Children and the Children's Cabinet have worked collaboratively with the LMBs to ensure all Maryland's children and families have access to quality programs and services in their communities, tailored to the communities' needs. The Children's Cabinet Interagency Fund supports Maryland's at-risk youth and families through the funding of community-based intervention and prevention services.

The governor's proposed budget includes $2.4 million for LMB administration and $15.7 million for early intervention and prevention funding. While this will require a shift in the administrative funding of the LMBs, these budget actions preserve and enhance the fiscal 2010 funding level for community-based programming. These proposed actions are a part of the governor's attempts to balance the state's budget during challenging times.

In fiscal 2011, there will be a renewed focus on the LMB core mission and a redefining of practices. These proposed budget actions do not eliminate the LMBs, which will continue to be the coordinators of collaboration for child and family services through bringing together local child-serving agencies, local child providers, clients of services, families and other community representatives. Local governance and decision-making are maintained.

With regard to the $15.7 million in early intervention and prevention funding, the proposed allocation to local jurisdictions to support services for children is expected to be proportionate to the current allocation pattern. The Children's Cabinet is committed to making available funding for each jurisdiction and to ensuring that the LMBs will continue to exercise their recognized local decision-making function over the services that are provided to meet the locally identified needs of children in their respective communities.

Approaches to effectively serving children and families need to evolve in response to the latest research and technology, especially in times of fiscal challenges. LMBs will continue to guide local systems change, but the work will be done by LMBs with assistance from additional cross-jurisdictional support and financing, allowing for the statewide expansion of wraparound service delivery - instead of the availability of such services in a few select jurisdictions.

Maryland's statewide approach is in alignment with nationally recognized cross-system innovation and was recently acknowledged through a competitive grant award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This grant, one of four awards to Maryland, names our state as the lead in a five-year, multistate learning collaborative that seeks to document, research and enhance the use of cross-system care management, with the goal of achieving an optimal level of wellness for children and families, while improving coordination of care, and providing cost-effective, nonduplicative services. Maryland has been nationally recognized for its high level and quality of commitment, expertise, and forward movement in the area of coordinated services to children and their families.

In a challenging fiscal climate, the ability to maintain $15.7 million for community-based services for children and families demonstrates the state's commitment to serving its most vulnerable population. LMBs and their community partners will continue to decide what programs and services are needed in their communities, and the state will continue to provide funding to support those services.

The LMBs and their community partners have been at the forefront of the "systems of care" movement. Although difficult economic times have made budget reductions necessary, the Governor's Office for Children and the Children's Cabinet will continue to work to support LMBs and to ensure the continued availability of community-based services for Maryland's most vulnerable children. It is our shared responsibility and it is the right thing to do.

Rosemary King Johnston is executive director of the Governor's Office for Children. Her e-mail is rjohnston@goc.state.md

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