Daily Archives: June 26, 2015

Welch declines the honor

Okay, so I’m on the air live this morning on The Mark Johnson Show. House Speaker Shap Smith, openly considering a run for governor but waiting to see what Congressman Peter Welch would do, has just left after a 45-minute interview. I’ve got Randy Brock, once and (possibly) future Republican candidate, sitting with me in the studio waiting for his interview to start.

And then, in rapid-fire succession, the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality is released… and I find out that Welch has just announced he will not run for governor, but will instead seek re-election to Congress.

Trust me, I didn’t need any coffee to get through that hour. I missed the chance to break the news to Speaker Smith, which would have just been the most fun thing ever. (As of this writing, I’m seeking reaction from him.) I did get to break the news to Brock, which was pretty fun itself.

Live radio, I love thee.

Brock, by the way, said that Welch’s status was one factor in his consideration, but only one of “300 or 400” things he’s weighing. But he sure seemed like he’s rarin’ to go.

Back to the main issue here. How does the Welch decision affect the race?

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The downside of subcontracting human services

We had an unintended confluence on the Thursday edition of the Mark Johnson Show, hosted by Yours Truly. Back-to-back interviews with VTDigger’s Morgan True and State Auditor Doug Hoffer turned out to cover some common themes.

True had reported on problems at Rutland Mental Health Services, one of the state’s “designated agencies” for providing social services. Hoffer had just released a very critical performance audit of the Corrections Department’s transitional housing program. I was in the middle of the show when the light bulb went off. Both interviews were kind of about the same thing: Inadequate oversight of human services contractors.

In both cases, an Agency of Human Services program is contracted out to nonprofit agencies that get virtually all their funding from the state. In a way, it’s a mutually captive relationship: the agencies are completely dependent on the state, and the state effectively has no options for replacing a poorly-performing contractor.

In their own way, True and Hoffer found similar problems in different areas of AHS: lack of consistent oversight, gaps in service provision, and inadequate methods for tracking performance. (In the case of RMHS, the situation boiled over into scandal.) The result is a system that looks good from a distance, not so good up close. Its failures are partly due to lax oversight; but we should also consider whether poor contractor performance may also be due, at least in part, to bare-bones funding by the state.

After the show was over, I pondered another issue: What does the Rutland situation have to say, if anything, about the Shumlin administration’s community-based mental health care system? Because those designated agencies are the front-line troops in that effort.

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