FROM THE PRESIDENT
Swirling economy spurs innovation
The only sure thing coming out of this summer’s state and county budget cutting is that community providers, such as COVA, are operating in a new world of funding options, requiring us to reconfigure our service models and the mindset of our staff.
Our primary challenge as we move forward is assuring that people with mental illnesses are not left behind or left out when the dust settles after the budget wrangling. We have been aggressive in supporting the lobbying and awareness efforts of several behavioral health coalitions.
In the past year, COVA has faced continuing cuts in state and county support, but has uncovered new pockets of federal match funding, private funds, new collaborations and agency-to-agency contracting options to offer our vocational services, while reducing expenses and reducing some staffing levels. Vocational Rehabilitation stimulus funds offer community providers the opportunity to deploy one-year programs to evaluate the most efficient methods of achieving employment goals.
COVA is in contention for two stimulus-funded programs. State and county leaders wisely advised us to use this
next year and possible stimulus funding to remake our organizations to be leaner, more efficient operations with innovative, evidence-based program offerings.
This summer, COVA will redesign its entire entry programming to allow us to serve more people faster and to place those participants into more individualized programming specific to their readiness to work. The Columbus Foundation has generously provided a capacity building grant to support COVA in completing the total redesign in less than 90 days.
COVA has reduced costs by outsourcing some administrative functions, and the redesign will streamline documentation needs. Volunteers will become more fully integrated into COVA programming and COVA alumni have stepped forward to begin leading support groups.
As the economy swirls, we are seeing a much more diverse population of people encountering job loss and mental health issues for the very first time. In general, this group is ready for rapid engagement and assistance in returning to work, while those with severe and recurring mental illnesses need more extensive assessment in trial workplaces and skills training to achieve competitive employment in the very tight job market.
All of this service model change requires our staff to be nimble and ready to accept new roles within the organization. It can be a little scary, but we are approaching this period of change and challenge secure in the knowledge that we are better positioning COVA to fulfill its mission of helping participants achieve economic stability in a very unstable time.