CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Government Performance Lab (GPL) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) announced today the selection of five counties to join a cohort of California state and local government agencies that will receive GPL technical assistance to improve the way they contract for and deliver social services. The five recipients are the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency, the Placer County Department of Health and Human Services, the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department, and the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. These governments join four other governments in California already receiving technical assistance from the GPL: Alameda County, the California Department of Social Services, the City of Los Angeles, and the City and County of San Francisco.

Since 2011, the GPL has provided pro bono government-side technical assistance to 55 jurisdictions in 24 states. GPL projects typically focus on helping government agencies improve the results they achieve with their preventative social services by using data to identify individuals with the greatest need and matching them to the right services, applying active contract management to agency contracts, and using outcomes-oriented contracting to improve service delivery. 

“The Government Performance Lab is committed to helping governments address their most pressing challenges,” said Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and GPL director. “We are looking forward to working with these California counties to pilot innovative solutions to difficult social problems.” 

While the new California projects touch on a number of policy areas, including workforce development, criminal justice, and mental health, a common theme running through all of them is homelessness. 

“Homelessness is one of the most persistent challenges facing governments in California,” said Ryan Gillette, program director and manager of the California-based GPL team of five. “We are excited to apply our learnings from across the country to try to move the needle on this urgent issue.”

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) coordinates and manages public funds for programs that provide shelter, housing, and coordinated services to homeless persons in the city and county of Los Angeles. The GPL will assist LAHSA in creating processes for measuring and managing the outcomes and performance of providers in real time and developing a better “front door” strategy to stem the tide of new individuals entering homelessness.

“With the passing of Measures HHH and H, the city and county governments in Los Angeles have been provided with vital resources to address the homeless crisis in Los Angeles County,” said Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “The Government Performance Lab will be working with LAHSA to deliver on this commitment.”

Napa County: The Napa County Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) recently received $11.3M from the state to engage in a five-year Whole Person Care (WPC) initiative to end functional homelessness. The GPL is working with HHS to develop and manage performance contracts for these services and identify ways to apply these principles to contracting practices more broadly. 

“The Government Performance Lab has been instrumental in helping the Health and Human Services Agency understand how performance contracting can improve outcomes,” said HHS Agency Director Howard Himes. “We look forward to applying these principles across the Health and Human Services Agency.”

Placer County: As part of the County’s Whole Person Care initiative, the Placer County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning to expand the number of county-funded medical respite beds for individuals experiencing homelessness who have health conditions that might interfere with their getting housed or that might cause them to access local emergency departments unnecessarily. The GPL will help HHS identify the appropriate number of respite beds to create, procure for a provider, develop a contract, and explore innovative financing opportunities to provide long-term sustainable funding for the program. 

“Placer County has a small homeless population, but the average person experiencing homelessness in Placer County is older and more medically-needy than in many other areas,” said HHS Health Officer and Medical Director Dr. Rob Oldham. “With assistance from the Government Performance Lab, we hope to improve the health outcomes of our homeless residents and help them to progress along a path of recovery and self-sufficiency.”

Santa Cruz: The County and City of Santa Cruz are collaborating with community-based organizations to improve the well-being of the community’s most vulnerable individuals. Through its new CORE (Collective of Results and Evidence-Based) Investments, Santa Cruz aims to fund safety net services in the community with a focus on measurable outcomes. The GPL will help
Santa Cruz explore performance-based contracting and innovative financing and will advise on contract management reform practices. 

“The County and City of Santa Cruz are thrilled to embark on a results-driven collective impact model to help its most vulnerable individuals,” said Ellen Timberlake, County of Santa Cruz Human Services Department Interim Director. “We are excited to work with the Government Performance Lab to further our mission and impact.”

Sonoma: The Sonoma County Department Health Services, Human Services Department, Probation Department, Community Development Commission, Department of Child Support Services, the Public Defender, and other key partners are exploring a new project to strengthen the safety net system to support the highest need residents in achieving self-sufficiency, recovery and well-being. The GPL will help identify and set outcomes targets and develop a system for performance management. 

“Sonoma County is committed to addressing all of the social determinants of health in order to secure the safety net,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “With assistance from the Government Performance Lab, we are confident that we are helping clients access and move out of the safety net toward self-sufficiency and improved health and well-being outcomes.”

The GPL’s work with the five selected counties is funded by a grant from The California Endowment. 

“The California Endowment is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of all Californians,” said Amy Chung, Director of Program-Related Investments at the California Endowment. “The Government Performance Lab is playing an important role in helping governments pivot their social spending toward preventative measures that seek to improve the health of communities across California.”


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