Nonprofits picked to lead Salt Lake County initiatives (Salt Lake Tribune)

By MIKE GORRELL

Salt Lake County has picked two nonprofit groups to serve as the lead agencies in the second and third social-service programs undertaken through the county's Pay for Success initiative.

Parents as Teachers will oversee efforts to improve maternal and child health, in part by providing educational and employment assistance to mothers. County Mayor Ben McAdams said the program could benefit many of the 23,000 low-income families who have one or more children under the age of 5.

The second nonprofit, First Step House, will work with county officials to reduce jail recidivism. It will provide services and intensive case management to people as they leave jail, in hopes that their return to the community will be permanent.

Right now, that's not the case. McAdams said that in 2011, 62 percent of the 7,565 people released from the county jail were back behind bars within three years.

"Offenders often leave jail with limited work history, low skill levels and health needs ranging from mental-health issues to substance abuse," he said, noting that First Step House will work with released prisoners on health care, career support and transitional housing.

"First Step House has been working in the community for years and years," said Fraser Nelson, the county's director of data and innovation. She is coordinating and tracking the "Pay For Success" program, which gets private sector and nonprofit philanthropists to help underwrite results-based programs.

The county will pay for those services only if agreed-upon results are accomplished. The first program, done in conjunction with Granite School District, expanded preschool programs to 600 low-income children.

The county and the nonprofits are now negotiating contracts that specify the desired outcomes and establish a schedule for expanding service delivery.

"This is a big milestone for Salt Lake County," McAdams said. "Over the next two months, we'll provide more details on what the interventions look like and what our payments will look like, tied to specific target measures being reached."

County Councilman Steve DeBry applauded the process.

"This is money well spent," he said. "We're going to reap tremendous benefits for our populations-at-risk in these areas. It's long overdue."

mikeg@sltrib.com