Service Clustering: Building Cohesive Public Service Capacity

Oct 01, 2005
  • Description

The human services support system of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, incorporates a complex and concentrated network of services for its economically disadvantaged citizens. In 2004, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) served 231,400 people by administering 2,190 contracted services through a network of 384 direct service providers, most being autonomous, nonprofit organizations.1 Local government relies heavily on nonprofit organizations to address the physical, mental, and emotional health of individual residents, which in turn improves the quality of life for families and communities. Allegheny County residents consequently enjoy a human service delivery system with great geographical access to a variety of service providers.A network of 384 direct service providers delivering services across five DHS program offices provides choice to individuals. This ample supply of service delivery options enables consumers to select direct service providers in close geographic proximity to their residence, as well as an opportunity to select a provider based upon its particular service delivery approach.That said, this abundance of supply options, while likely attractive to the consumer, entails a cost to government or the funder in its costs to administer contracts with each autonomous, direct service provider. The Forbes Funds commissioned The Hill Group, Inc., to conduct a study of the human service delivery system in Allegheny County to determine if there were opportunities to enhance the system's capacity. Specifically, this study investigates whether there is an opportunity to maintain choice in service delivery, a benefit of the Allegheny County human services system, while creating operating efficiencies and enhancing mission effectiveness. This study addresses the following questions:

  • What is the supply and demand continuum of human services in Allegheny County?
  • Is there evidence of equilibrium or disequilibria between human services provided and demand for human services?
  • Are there high or low concentrations of service providers geographically clustered around clients or any natural market sheds of human services activities?
  • Can geographical concentrations of providers and clients be leveraged for efficiency through various forms of collaboration without compromising choice or delivery of services?
  • Would the geographic clustering of human service organizations lead to any cost
  • savings to the public (government or funders) or to nonprofit organizations?