About Our Funding
The Saint Louis Mental Health Board (MHB) administers public funds on behalf of the residents of the City of St. Louis for behavioral health and children’s services. Because our sources of funds are tax revenues, MHB is committed to using the funds entrusted to it to improve the lives of residents, especially those most vulnerable (i.e., children, or those whose lives are compromised by mental disorders or drug addiction). One of our most important principles is to ensure that tax dollars received by MHB are carefully invested in the safest, most secure manner until they are distributed for community purposes. MHB ‘s investment policy complies with Missouri State guidelines which are designed to ensure protection of all publically generated funds.
MHB utilizes a variety of approaches to distribute funds. Each of these approaches is described below.
Project Grants are made through a two-step competitive process: 1) concept papers are sought that describe promising or proven approaches to attain the identified Result/Outcome. Concept papers are reviewed and the agencies with the most promising concepts are invited to submit a full proposal for their project. 2) A full proposal is required to be submitted both online and via hard copy. The proposal responds to specific MHB questions designed to allow the agency to more fully describe the approach presented in the concept paper. Proposals are screened using an objective rating instrument –first by staff, and then by the MHB Trustees in a final open consensus meeting. The screening is rigorous — resulting in only the most robust proposals approved for three-year grant funding.
This strategic approach to funding prioritizes return on investment, including benefits to City residents, level of improvement in the conditions for the people served, as well as cost effectiveness. Best practices programs conducted by organizations with good track records offer the highest assurances that outcomes will be achieved. In certain situations, grants will be awarded to encourage promising innovative programs if data or evidence exists that a proposed approach has a reasonable likelihood of success.
Another approach to the distribution of funds is through funding partnerships. This approach is defined by funding of a project(s) in which two or more organizations invest jointly for a mutually agreed-upon set of goals and period of time. It is an effective way to increase the dollar amount available for critical services and has the added benefit of concentrating attention on a particular need or condition in the community, which otherwise might go without such attention. Frequently, when funders pool resources, more comprehensive services are made available that can achieve greater impact, and as such, MHB encourages such partnerships.
For MHB, funding partners are other leadership organizations that, for the most part, don’t deliver services, but contract with recipient organizations who do, and who have their own funds to invest in a project of mutual interest. Partners do not compete for funds. Rather, the partners determine the parameters of their relationship as it relates to the jointly funded project — by consensus.
Initiatives are created in cases where solving a community problem requires MHB leadership, collaboration and funding. Projects funded through the initiative approach are those that engage key stakeholders in efforts to increase coordination, communication or collaboration that will better address important community needs, and for which MHB makes funding available from time to time. In the past, MHB has made initiative funding available for efforts that improve conditions that impede people from getting needed services such as lack of cultural competence or other access issues. Other initiatives were funded when the services people needed didn’t exist in St. Louis. MHB will continue to devote staff resources to identify, coordinate and seek solutions to such problems, as well as make funds available, when necessary, to promote and encourage a more comprehensive, coordinated system of services to City residents.
Investment Management Partnerships through Intermediaries
MHB’s newest investment strategy utilizes intermediaries/ backbone organizations to serve as investment managers of MHB funds. The intermediaries are uniquely qualified to achieve greater impact in a particular sector or service area because they have existing relationships with service providers through a membership structure or affiliation. Examples of such service areas are after-school programming and maternal, child and family health services. In the investment management relationship with MHB, the intermediary serves as a fiscal agent of MHB funds, overseeing the selection of recipients, transmittal of grants, and monitoring compliance and effectiveness of service and outcome achievement. Concurrently, MHB exercises oversight and accountability of the intermediary’s performance. This unique relationship allows MHB to extend its reach through focused investments while utilizing the expertise of the intermediaries.
Matching Federal Dollars
MHB has restricted the use of local tax dollars as a match for federal funds, since many federal grants require increasing amounts of match each year. More importantly, there may be an expectation that MHB would continue to fund the federal grant program after the 3 or 5 year federal commitment ends.
There are, however, occasions where matching federal dollars is a wise investment, especially if the use of this method will result in the establishment of a new needed service, which otherwise would not be available any other way.