Human services funding requires careful scrutiny


POSTED: Monday, July 20, 2009

The state Department of Human Services (DHS) recently extended numerous contracts, including domestic violence shelters, for three months (July-September), allowing us time to review our purchases of services. This prudent action to carefully manage scarce taxpayer dollars has been misconstrued by some as an attempt to cut off funding.

The fact is, DHS has been engaged in a multiyear process of scrutinizing all our contracts to ensure that their scopes of services and payment methods meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents, in the most cost effective and efficient manner. For example, we have added performance benchmarks and measures to all our contracts as well as requiring new data collection and reporting.

Last year, DHS spent more than $4.5 million on domestic violence shelters and other related services. This is not a minimal level of funding as characterized by some advocates.

It is important to clarify that DHS is one of many purchasers of domestic violence shelter services. Specifically, DHS contracts these services for two very different purposes:

» To help domestic violence victims obtain employment and leave the welfare rolls.

» To reunite families whose children have been placed in state foster care due to abuse or neglect.

Since many women who stay in domestic violence shelters do not fall into these two specific DHS purpose categories, it raises a question about where the majority of funding for these shelters should derive.

Women who seek protection in domestic violence shelters are often victims of assault, battery and even rape. These are—first and foremost—crimes that warrant prosecution and victim support through the Judiciary and county prosecuting offices.

This is something to consider as the state works with the counties to carefully examine all aspects of spending in order to address an unprecedented multi-billion budget shortfall.


Lillian Koller is the state Department of Human Services director.