For the past couple of weeks, we have been hearing reports from Tallahassee of an abuse of power and taxpayer funds of a statewide domestic violence coalition. This has propelled the Legislature to reevaluate how this tragic and expensive profiteering occurred.
As the legislative and executive branches speed to put new systems of accountability into place, they would do well to look to the system of local oversight over behavioral health that has served Florida well — Managing Entities.
Managing Entities are seven regional non-profit organizations that manage state contracts for substance abuse and mental health services. The Managing Entities are led by experienced behavioral health professionals with business leaders as their CEOs, but more importantly, they are held accountable by a local board made up of leaders in the communities they serve.
I sit on the board of the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, the local Managing Entity in the Suncoast region. We are an independent board comprised of knowledgeable community stakeholders and leaders of local governments, healthcare facilities, law enforcement, local families, homeless services, child welfare systems, public health organizations, churches, philanthropies and more.
Everyone who has a stake in the success of our community has a seat at the table. Rather than a disconnected authority in Tallahassee deciding on the budget or the services needed, these decisions are made here in the community. But, without self-serving interests. Managing Entities connect with members of the community through community consortiums, enabling them to listen to concerns, identify gaps, and develop appropriate responses to community problems.
Managing Entities perform an annual needs assessment and enhancement plans for every community served and develop executable action plans to meet identified needs. Part of this plan includes tailored funding to address each community’s individual needs.
In addition to the input and oversight of the local board, Managing Entities are subjected to a robust quality assurance process where we provide 85 essential audits and reports each year to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), measuring everything from financial accountability to treatment outcomes to consumer satisfaction.
Finally, every Managing Entity is accredited by a national accreditation organization.
In contrast to the secretive operation of the domestic violence coalition, Managing Entities operate with complete transparency. Budgets, administrative costs (currently an impressive average of 3.1%), and all the kinds of expenditures that were kept hidden by the domestic violence coalition are publicly available on each Managing Entity’s website.
The creation of the Managing Entities was a smart move by the Legislature to move accountability and oversight closer to the people they are serving, and Florida is reaping the benefits. As the Legislature rushes to create a large Office of Accountability within DCF and to fix other processes that broke down with the statewide domestic violence coalition, it would do well to preserve and replicate the Managing Entity model. It delivers transparent accountability and engages the local stakeholders to make sure that every dollar spent on behavioral health is serving critical community needs.
Ray Gadd is the Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Operations at the Pasco County School Board.