County exploring 3 more ‘Pay For Success’ issues (Salt Lake Tribune)


Salt Lake County has picked three more issues of social concern as potential areas to use the "Pay For Success" model to produce better results at lower long-term costs for taxpayers.

The County Council on Tuesday authorized Mayor Ben McAdams, along with a University of Utah "innovation laboratory," to spend the next few months putting programs together to deal with:

• Maternal/child health;

• The criminal justice system, particularly the idea of keeping inmates from returning to jail after being released; and

• Homelessness.

In all three areas, said former McAdams adviser Jeremy Keele, "there is an opportunity to avoid some really bad outcomes for these populations if we intervene early in the process."

Keele is now executive director of a policy innovation laboratory in the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business. In that position, he is looking to entice private sector and nonprofit organizations to invest up-front in programs designed to achieve positive long-term outcomes that are verifiable.

If the programs succeed in reaching prescribed goals, then the county will repay the investment, will have more residents who contribute to society and will likely realize reduced expenditures from, for instance, not having people end up in more expensive educational or correctional programs because they did not get help early on, when it could have reshaped their lives.

"Utah is ground zero [for this approach], an intellectual hub of 'Pay For Success,' " said Keele.

The county first used this approach to expand preschool education in low-income areas. The idea is that more preschool will prevent more kids from falling behind, requiring fewer special ed classes and reducing the number of dropouts who become societal burdens in other ways.

In a couple of years, if testing scores validate that the program is working, the county will repay the original philanthropic funding provided from Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker.

With council approval of the three study areas, Keele will spend the next year talking with county agencies, the groups that provide services in these fields and potential funding sources to design a program with measurable results. If successful, he said, programs in each or all of those areas could be operating by spring of 2016.

The council voted 8-1 to proceed. Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove, a Republican, cast the lone dissenting vote. He said he's skeptical about its chances of working, but added he hopes he is wrong. Snelgrove had some moral support from fellow GOP Councilman Steve DeBry, but DeBry voted for the initiative partly because, as a law enforcement officer, he is eager to find a solution to jail recidivism.

Most council members agreed with Republican Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton's observation that Pay for Success "is a good way to effectively use tax dollars."