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How is the Region Doing? Human Service Use and Service Availability in Allegheny County, PA

October 1, 2006

Allegheny County is home to approximately 1,600 financially-active nonprofit organizations, including 357 human service providers that deliver a range of health and social services.1 Past research has suggested that Pittsburgh's nonprofits, as a group, are facing important organizational and program challenges as they plan for the future. De Vita & Twombly's study of nonprofit human service organizations in the county (2003) found that, in 2000, nearly 40 percent of these providers had expenses that exceeded their revenues.In a paper discussing the future of nonprofits in the region, Paul C. Light (2005) listed additional challenges: difficulty responding to rapid environmental changes, challenges achieving gender and racial diversity in boards, and precarious financial situations.While these challenges on the service supply side are worrisome, less is known about the demand for human services in Allegheny County, and how it may be impacted. Using client and provider data from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), The Hill Group (2005) examined service usage for each DHS Program Office (e.g., Office of Behavioral Health, Agency on Aging, etc). Campos, Inc., in 2004, contrasted the opinions of Allegheny County residents and nonprofit executives about the most serious problems at the community level. Neither one of these studies, however, asked consumers directly about the utilization of services at the household level.To address this gap,The Forbes Funds commissioned the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning to conduct a study of the human service needs of households in Allegheny County. Specifically, OMG's research focused on service use of residents of distressed and non-distressed areas, and attempted to contrast service usage with the array of human services which are currently available.The study also looked at whether or not households were successfully accessing the services they needed, and explored barriers to service receipt and client satisfaction with services.