Grant funding boosts chemical dependency programs

The Hennepin County Board received a grant from the Medica Foundation to fund an additional peer specialist for the Diversion and Recovery Team (DART), a partnership between the Human Services and Public Health Department and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. DART provides chemical dependency services to adults with severe and chronic substance addictions. Often clients are homeless, have high use of detox, hospital emergency, and inpatient services, and are at high risk of civil commitment.

Using a recovery approach, the program reduces use of these services by providing outpatient treatment, intensive case management, and links to housing and employment services. The peer specialist will also help DART to increase the number of clients that can be served.

In 2012, comparison of client status at 6 months before DART enrollment to six months after enrollment showed emergency department visits down by 75 percent, detox admissions down by 83 percent, and ambulance service use down by 54 percent. In addition, 93 percent of clients maintained stable housing and all 50 clients established connections with primary and specialty health care clinics.

Tenant-based rental assistance

The board received $1,375,000 from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to provide tenant-based rental subsidies and related services over the next two years to the long-term homeless as part of the Human Services and Public Health Department’s (HSPHD) Housing First program. These tenant subsidies are available to participants with extremely low incomes with a disabled adult in the home.

The program focuses on long-term shelter users, who are identified by social workers, eligibility determination staff, private community shelters, and other agencies that offer direct services to these populations. The subsidies may be used for scattered or clustered sites integrated in the community.

Services follow clients over time and across housing choices. Hennepin County currently contracts with Catholic Charities, St. Stephen’s Human Services, and Simpson Housing Services.  As a direct result of the grant, the county’s Housing First program has leveraged Group Residential Housing funds to serve an additional 916 long-term homeless individuals and 94 long-term homeless families.

Master banking agreements

The board authorized the chair of the board and county administrator to sign master banking agreements with US Bank NA and Wells Fargo Bank NA. Earlier this year, Hennepin County released a request for proposal (RFP) for banking services that for the first time asked respondents to include information about community presence and responsibility in their commercial and residential lending in Hennepin County.

The RFP also included a requirement that any proposing banks submit data and answers to questions about local presence, consumer banking, small business and home mortgage lending practices and results. By responding to the RFP, banks who enter into agreements with the county agree to submit updates to that data during the term of the agreement.

Digital scan voting

The board approved lease agreements with 44 cities in Hennepin County to provide county-owned digital scan voting equipment for use during federal, state, municipal and school district elections. Each city will pay annual maintenance and repair fees for their machines.

In April 2013, the Board authorized a significant investment to replace 14-year-old voting equipment with new digital scan voting equipment for scanning and tabulating ballots cast on Election Day as well as central count machines for counting absentee ballots. The equipment features technological advances including ranked choice voting elections.