Lawmakers focused on child and adult protective services Thursday as they reviewed the budget proposal for the Department of Job and Family Services.
The House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services also asked ODJFS Director Cynthia Dungey about ways to connect unemployed Ohioans with businesses that find a shortage of potential workers who can pass drug tests.
The department's proposed budget is for $3.36 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, up from $2.97 billion estimated for FY 2017, an increase of 13.1%. The FY 2019 budget is for $3.31 billion, down 1.6% from FY 2018. (Redbook)
Some items in the budget proposal (HB 49) remain unchanged from the current budget, including spending on adult protective services. Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said there is more demand for these services as the population skews older.
"Why is it that your budget is flat for these two years given the fact that there are so many challenges we've heard from other agencies?" she asked.
Director Dungey said the investment made in the last budget was a significant increase over the spending in the program before. Every county now receives at least $30,000, whereas before there were counties receiving as little as $500.
The difficult budget year forced the department to be conservative in what they increased, she said.
"I am very proud of the fact that our core programs have been maintained," she said.
The committee also questioned the director about the strain the drug epidemic has placed on child protective services. Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R-Chagrin Falls) said one suggestion she's heard is subsidizing child care for kinship families, in which a relative takes over the care or custody of a child from that child's parents.
Expanding support for kinship care has been something the department has considered, Director Dungey said, but one of the biggest concerns is determining exactly who would be eligible.
"At this point, I don't think that there is anything that is off the table. We're going to have to be creative in how we approach this," she said of the drug issue.
Director Dungey said access to transportation is a burden many people face in finding and maintaining jobs. The budget proposal moves Medicaid spending for non-emergency transportation over to the Department of Medicaid in FY 2019, she said, as the state looks at replacing county-based transportation with a statewide broker.
The legislators questioned the need for non-emergency Medicaid transportation to move from county- to state-based, and Director Dungey said it could alleviate some of the burden on county caseworkers.
"We've heard from many where spending time trying to figure out transportation for clients is very time-consuming," she said. "If there was an opportunity to have a broker to take over that responsibility, it would allow for the caseworker to spend more time dealing with other needs."
Moving the funding over to ODM, she said, is also a continuation of the process of shifting Medicaid from ODJFS, where the program used to live, to its own standalone department.
"The goal is to make sure that as we have separated agencies, that all Medicaid-related funding goes to the Department of Medicaid," she said.
The plan for how that possible statewide transportation broker would look has not yet been decided, she said. The various health and human services agencies will work on that over the next year or so.