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County Manager Column from Sept. 21, 2021
Guest column: 2022-2023 proposed budget for Health and Wellness
Now that Service Teams have presented their 2022-2023 proposed budget to our board of commissioners, I’m inviting each of our Deputy County Managers to present a guest column over the weeks ahead to share more detail with you. Kathy Hedin, Deputy County Manager of Health and Wellness will kick things off this week. -Ryan
I’m excited to be here with you to share our proposed 2022-2023 budget for the Health and Wellness Service Team. We presented our budget across two days. On Sept. 9, Financial Assistance Services, Health and Wellness Administration, Veterans Services and Public Health presented.
On Sept. 10 we returned with presentations from Social Services and Community Corrections.
On the numbers, the Health and Wellness section begins on page 439 of the budget book. To meet overall county budget and property tax levy targets (a 1.55% proposed increase in the levy following no increase last year), we proposed holding open 17 full time equivalent positions (FTEs), providing 2,287.5 FTEs across the Service Team in 2022-2023. We have proposed a budget of $366 million for 2022 and $365 million in 2023 with $3 million of property tax levy funding reductions in each year driven by the realignment of housing stability work moving to the Economic Growth and Community Investment Service Team. We are anticipating additional state and federal revenue in this period in Social Services.
For those looking to get into the numbers, please find all materials for the proposed 2022-2023 budget at ramseycounty.us/Budget.
Engaging community and staff
As we began our budgeting process, with our department leaders working alongside leaders from Finance, we felt it was important to continue engaging staff and community as we have in virtual town halls throughout the pandemic. Many of these were facilitated by our Racial and Health Equity Administrators alongside department leaders on various topics within Health and Wellness. We built on what we learned from those to host two community conversations in April specifically around our 2022-2023 budget.
In these, we heard staff and community tell us they wanted to know how we are truly focused in on the most vulnerable people in Ramsey County and how we measure success and develop our priorities. Many had questions about how we are investing in COVID-19 testing and vaccinations within underserved neighborhoods as well as how we fund mental health services. The participants were very interested in how we invest in contracting with community organizations and how we can increase the number of smaller local vendors of diverse backgrounds and ways to remove barriers to accessing contracts. The conversations also covered how what we’re doing to help address racial inequities and wealth gaps. For service delivery, we heard from residents, staff and partners who want to see us provide more of a "one stop shop" model, including combining service areas and reducing our physical footprint. Staff asked about budgeting for employee wellness.
We highly value this feedback and thank our community members and staff for asking questions and sharing their thoughts. We took what we heard there to incorporate those needs and expectations into our proposed budget. This year was a good start toward partnering with Finance to build a more participatory budgeting process that brings community and staff to the table routinely to best reflect the goals of the community and our vision, mission, goals and values.
Following our engagement with community and staff, we established a number of focus areas aligned with the county’s strategic plan for investment in the proposed 2022-2023 budget cycle:
- Human Services Technology Modernization – improving our processes through both technology and a human-centered approach to service delivery.
- Advancing a holistic approach to strengthen families through investment in early childhood care and education work.
- Racial and health equity and shared community power:
- Implementing the community-led Equity Action Circle priorities of investing in cultural community liaisons.
- Connecting Financial Assistance Services department staff to the Ramsey County Service Centers and investing in the family coach model to ensure people can effectively navigate our services and the services available within the community.
- Leveraging procurement guidelines to contract directly with Black, Brown and Indigenous owned and operated community organizations.
- Supporting our Racial and Health Equity Administrator and department liaisons who work within departments to identify race and health equity priorities through policies, procedures, services, practices and processes.
- Aligning justice system outcomes with community values in partnership through the Transforming Systems Together – supporting community and department leaders as we focus on the initiative’s "North Star" priority of child welfare.
- Community-driven proactive wellness support that balances the responsibility for community violence prevention between systems through partnerships. An example of this is the mental health co-responder model now underway.
- Leverage community practitioners through models such as Healing Streets.
- Public Health’s continued prioritization of leading Ramsey County and our communities through our response to COVID-19.
- Adding some administrative capacity to support food security coordination, planning, revenue maximization and financial support.
As I shared with our commissioners, we have a lot of work to do in 2022 and 2023. It’s also doubtless - as the last year-and-a-half has shown – that there will be unforeseen challenges that arise and test us. We are on a path of transformational change as an organization and as the largest Service Team, Health and Wellness will continue leading in this space and lifting up the work of our amazing staff committed to serving our community day in and day out following our values.
There are many, many people to thank on the team who worked together to deliver this proposed budget on behalf of the Health and Wellness Service Team. I had the opportunity to thank many of them at our presentations on Sept. 9 and 10 and extend those thanks again here. This truly was a team effort that benefited immensely from all our contributors inside and outside of our organization and all those efforts are carried forward as pieces that make up this budget.