A New Social Contract
It is easy to assume the human services system is a support for certain economic strata, or social classes. Yet, it has been decisively proven that overall community wellbeing is a key economic force affecting all Vermonters. The Vermont Agency of Human Services has a noble but overly broad mission.
At its core, AHS is charged with the nurtured development of our children. From a fiscal perspective, this is a very expensive social contract but we know smart investments in human capital can pay back a whopping $96.80 for every $1 invested. However, funding human services with a blank check as we’ve done will not effectively improve the lives of Vermonters. Human Services expenditures have risen 24% or $450 Million since 2010, with little social outcomes to show for the investment.
In a landmark study by Dr. Robert Anda and the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found overwhelming evidence of the impact of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” on adult functioning and community-wide wellness.
Adversity should not be part of the Vermont lifespan experience, and the mandate of the Agency of Human Services may be a never-ending one. However, the performance of this Agency is unacceptable. By their own report, the Agency of Human Services has missed numerous critical outcome targets. There are three broad targets outlined in the strategic plan, with specific goals under each. Sixteen of the twenty-eight metrics are currently trending flat or moving in the wrong direction. Most metrics present little to no progress over time. Only twelve of the metrics track data as recent as 2013. The remaining metrics display data as old as 2009.
In this paper, we examine previous recommendations toward a more efficient and effective human services system. We have an opportunity to learn from our history. Rather than initiate more studies, we can simply take up the efforts that have repeatedly stalled under a revolving door of political appointees.
With targeted reforms to the Agency of Human Services, Vermont has an opportunity to ensure its people are healthier and equipped to thrive. By focusing on effective programs through a robust outcomes measurement efforts, it is likely that significant savings will also be found.
A New Social Contract: Seeking Effect and Efficiency in the Agency of Human Services
Position Paper (released 4/6/2015)
 Legislative Join Fiscal Office
 AHS Results Scorecard