State Launches Office To Coordinate Public Assistance Programs

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A new state office aims to connect Ohioans on public assistance with paths to employment and financial independence.

Plans to create the Office of Human Services Innovation have been in the works since Gov. John Kasich signed his budget update in June. However its vision became more tangible with the announcement that Doug Lumpkin would be the head of that office.

Lumpkin is a longtime public servant who’s been director of both the Ohio and Franklin County departments of Job and Family Services.

Lumpkin envisioned his new role after looking at a list of about 30 public assistance programs in the state—ranging from youth services to education and employment training.

“As I was thinking about those I thought – how do we weave those into something that actually make the world better for folks? How do we weave that into something that actually works for folks,” he said.

Lumpkin said that’s the broad goal of the one-person office at this point – finding ways of coordinating and streamlining services for those in need.

“Families who are in crisis often are overwhelmed by what they face while trying to find the opportunity to get help,” he said. “We can get better at that.”

Kasich said there are critics who have grown cynical of taxpayer-funded assistance, and that’s why he says the state needs this office.

“They say ‘look we’re willing to help somebody but tired of helping people who don’t want to help themselves’ and we want all this stopped,” Kasich said.

But the governor said improving the coordination of these services will allow more people to effectively access the programs.

“We want to help them to get up because I think implanted in every one of our souls is the dignity of work,” he said. “And sometimes you’ve got to scrape real deep to get way down there to find that motivation but I believe it’s there.”

The new human services innovation office will be within the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Cynthia Dungey, director of the department, said their mission goes beyond the initial point of employment.

“It’s not important to just get a job. It’s important to be able to keep the job and succeed at the job so we can see the long term effects of being able to sustain oneself and self-sufficiency.”

The governor believes this new step will have a huge impact – and not just for Ohio.

“If we do this right in my opinion it’ll change the country,” he said.

Lumpkin will come up suggestions on how to best coordinate the services, revise incentives, and standardize eligibility determinations. Those suggestions must be submitted by the end of the year.