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Funding Human Services Programs

Department of Institutions
3814 West Princeton Circle
Denver, Colorado 80236
Phone (303) 762-4550

    Richard D. Lamm

    Frank Traylor, M.D.
    Executive Director

    Jeffrey Sandler
    Division Director

June 23, 1986

Colleen Wieck
Governor's Commission on Developmental Disabilities
201 Capitol Square Building
550 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

Dear Colleen:

In response to your June 3, 1986 memo regarding the newly established network, the Great State of Colorado would like to submit, for consideration at the first national conference, the following paper on funding human services.

The author, who chooses to remain anonymous, is a dedicated fan of the "Prairie Home Companion" and is fondly referred to in this office as "The Fog".

Sincerely yours,

Jeffery A. Sandler
Division Director


cc: Merril Stern
The Fog

Human Services Funding Concepts:
Toward New Structures

Funding human services programs has absolutely befuddled policy makers since the days of the English Poor Laws.. The first litigation indeed was entered two days after the enactment of the Poor Laws when a recipient protested that the allowance for one loaf of bread permitted recipients only to buy Wonder Bread and not Roman Meal Lite Whole Grain Wheat. Two baker / vendors protested about three months later that the payments did not adequately reflect the rising costs of hearth stones and so it's been for the better part of two centuries.

The current debates about what governments pay for and do not and how much they pay and whether it is enough is nothing particularly new. "They" (vendors, service recipients, and "concerned others") argue that "we" (narrow-minded bureaucrats) are essentially insensitive tree trunks who while away the two-three hours a week when we interrupt our major activities (things like filing, making paper clip chains, and coffee break) by developing new methods not to pay for what is needed. Quite generally, "they" articulate their frustration in mostly non-verbal ways, principally by hanging from crosses. When capable of verbalizing their anger, "they" seek to describe what in fact must be the psychotic character disorders that afflict "us."

Listening to "them" is interesting because the more one listens and sorts things out the more impressed one is that "we" have absolutely diabolic and lightening fast ingenuity when it comes to devising stratagems to frustrate "them." For example, it's always the case that no matter what we say we will buy it always is the case that "we" are not buying just that very thing that stands between a person's being cast out into a future of abject dependence and ascending to the board of General Motors. "We" are able to design and modify systems in just the right way to ensure that no one gets what's needed. Given the absolutely large numbers of peoples served in human services programs, that outcome surely confounds all previous work concerning the Law of Large Numbers. One would think that someone would slip through somewhere into the world of success.

Similarly, even if "we" say it is okay to buy something, "we" are also able to always pick out a rate of payment that "just simply is not enough " Even if the rate of payment is "just simply not almost enough", it's a bad deal because we concoct ways to make the payment even worse. Ways like tying payments to fluctuations in the futures market for pork bellies. Despite the fact that all this punches holes in the classic truism that all "us" bureaucrats have the collective intelligence of a rock frozen to Absolute Zero (a truism forged by "them"), "they" see us the Darth Vaders of human services. "We" have infinite ways to use The Force only in mischievous ways.

"We" need to fess up that "they" are absolutely correct. There is in fact a Secret Office of Just Simply Not Enough that figures out payment rates. "We" do make clandestine surveys each month to hone in on what service "we" will not fund in order to defeat "their" best efforts to carry civilization and humanity to new heights. "We" do mastermind perverse concepts like BUDGETING, ACCOUNTABILITY, and Performance Measurement to create new tunnels in the maze leading to NIRVANA.

It's "time" "we" forge new structures to let "them" do good, if for no other reason than it's gotten a bit tiresome always fouling up their best intentions. Entirely new concepts are needed. Indeed, the entire lexicon of funding needs to be changed. Hence, the following new set of funding principles needs to be given serious consideration:

The Knapsack Principle. "They" tell us that funding must follow the client. That's right. Clients never change; the resources that need to be applied are impervious to the application of any service. The Knapsack Principle enables funding to follow the client by filling a knapsack full of funding and strapping it to the client's back. The Knapsack Principle ensures that funding will follow the client, all the way to the grave if necessary.

Dumptruck Financing. The problem in funding human services is that "they" always know better how to spend dollars than "we" do; hence, whatever we do is wrong. The Dumptruck Financing System recognizes this. "We" will fill up dump trucks full of money and send them down the road to "them". "They" will greet the dump truck and direct that the money be deposited on their front lawns and then pile in. The Dumptruck Financing System is the ultimate manifestation of the more narrow-minded and bureaucratized "Block Grant."

Preemptive Funding Strikes. "We" defeat "them" sometimes by giving them what "they" want. This is a tactic on our part to disorient "them." In every documented case of the use of this strategy, what "we" gave them has been found to be "just simply not almost enough." Our Office of Just Simply Not Enough always knows that there is something "they" forgot about. Preemptive Funding Strikes would attack "them" by always giving out ten percent more than "they" need and randomly pass around money even when "they" don't think they need anymore. "They" quite frankly sometime don't know when they" will need something. Even "they" are human. It happens two or three times a decade.

Non-Performance Contracting. Since "they" can never do enough and hence, since every client is always underfunded NO MATTER WHAT, it is absolutely perverse ever to believe that any service will ever lead to anything. This has been an absolute benchmark in human services. Contracting systems currently used run absolutely counter to that benchmark by assuming that the application of a service will result in any positive benefit. Non-Performance Contracting would recognize the benchmark by penalizing any agency that ever succeeded in doing anything worthwhile. Such agencies ought to be penalized because if they think they did something worthwhile they simply do not understand that every client has an unmet need. Their assessment system must be just wrong, and they need to be penalized.

PUC Funding. "They" sit up all night long (hence, explaining "their" generally sallow complexion) worrying about the Potential Unfound Client, a.k.a. the PUC. No one has ever been able to adequately estimate the number of PUC'S These PUC's are all over; they are ephemeral lost souls who need to be rounded up and given a services plan. These PUC's stretch out in ways that none of "us" can ever conceive. They lurk just beyond state borders, waiting to descend the moment when "they" think they have everyone possible served PUC's stretch out into FUTURE GENERATIONS. Carl Sagan believes that there may be billions and billions of PUC's in other galaxies. "They" need some sleep; doing good is wrenching work. "We" need to fund the PUC's. Every agency needs funding at least at the level of total projected world population in the year 2496. Some might quibble that since there are more human services agencies than clients, this might be going a bit overboard. Those people simply fail to realize that PUC's only arrive at one's doorstep; identifying a PUC does not reduce the number of PUC's . PUC's are infinite.

Wet Noodle Initiative. "They," no matter what, just don't have any flexibility. "We" say that they ought to spend money for something in particular. The only result of that linear thinking is to confound "them" because they just thought of something different to buy. "They" need flexibility; hence, the Wet Noodle Initiative. It has been well known for centuries that it is a whole lot easier to push a wet noodle than an uncooked piece of spaghetti. Social workers know that. Through the Wet Noodle Initiative, any dollar sent by "us" to "them" can be used for any purpose in any amount; including the funding in equal amounts two entirely contradictory services. This would be accomplished by amending the Constitution to permit "them" to Xerox and spend any dollar we send them.

Geometric Incentive Program. "We" do not give "them" incentives to spend dollars wisely. For example, if a client goes away, we snatch up the dollars. Doing so robs the agency of any incentive to make the client go away even though no clients ever go away because all clients are immortal. This sorry lack of recognition of the need for incentives leads agencies to not do the best thing for fear that the dollar could disappear with the client. The Geometric Incentive Program (GIP) creates a proper set of incentives by quadrupling the funding to an agency every time a client goes away even though no client ever does.

Just Due. The problem "they" have is that "they" just can't pay enough money to get good people to find all the needs that have gone unmet. To deal with that problem, "we" need to create the Just Due Compensation System. Under that system, every worker would get everything deserved. Since workers must confront Life's Great Problems, it's obvious that salaries should be higher than Everyone Else. The only problem with the Just Due Compensation System is that the question of whether any one would work past the first week of employment has not been satisfactorily answered. Some people think that they would all retire with that first big check, hence contributing to the wretched problem of UNDERSTAFFING. At the same time, however, retirement after one week would avoid the even larger issue of BURN OUT.

These new structures and approaches offer some small hope by solving the problem of funding human services programs. Heaven knows that "we" will be able to confound them all. Perhaps, what "we" ought to do is take a couple of weekends off so that "they" can at least taste victory for a fleeting moment.


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