FY 2016





Connecting Cook County
The average Cook County family doles out $10,000 annually on train tickets, bus passes, car payments, and gas. Second only to housing as a yearly expense, transportation poses a financial burden to many families in our region. Beyond the financial challenge, many households do not have access to convenient transportation options, limiting their ability to access the most basic needs, such as a jobs, healthy food, and healthcare.

Given the importance of transportation for our region, Civic Consulting Alliance worked closely with the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways to devise a regional transportation strategy, Connecting Cook County: 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan, which was released earlier this month.

To develop the county's first transportation plan in 70 years, the team took a demand-driven approach, starting with a basic question, "What do those who use the system need most?" Building from this inquiry, Civic Consulting helped the Board identify five transportation initiatives for the county: (1) focus on public transit and other transportation alternatives; (2) support the region's role as North America's freight capital; (3) promote equal access to opportunities; (4) maintain and modernize what already exists; and (5) increase investment in transportation.

"Transportation is critical to the economic success of Cook County as it connects individuals to jobs and goods to market," said Toni Preckwinkle, President of Cook County Board of Commissioners. "With that in mind, we worked with Civic Consulting to devise a plan that will make transit and other alternatives to automobiles more accessible to those who need it."

For more information on this project, please contact Frank Beal.

Developing a street-level behavioral health diversion
People with behavioral health issues frequently end up in emergency treatment or in jail, but ERs and the criminal justice system are not well equipped to treat them. As a result, patients don't get the treatment they need, while the services they do receive are extraordinarily expensive to taxpayers.

Research indicates that, rather than going to the ER or jail, individuals with behavioral health issues should be diverted to community-based resources. When done well, diversion connects patients to the assessment and referral services they need and reduces the cost of treatment.

Cook County wanted to establish a street-level diversion program via a new "Community Triage Center" (CTC). When CCHSS decided to pilot a CTC, it called upon Civic Consulting Alliance and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy's new "Policy Labs" program to determine where these centers are most needed, and what their return on investment might be.

To answer these questions, Policy Lab students tracked individuals discharged from Cook County Jail and assessed the capacity and quality of behavioral health providers in their areas of residence. The students bolstered their recommendations by surveying national data on similar community diversion centers. Through this analysis, the students identified where the new Community Triage Center would have the most impact, as well as locations for future expansion. Moreover, by providing an alternative to the ER or jail, the students estimated these clinics could provide considerable cost savings to the County.

To hear students speak firsthand about their work on this project, listen to Harris' recent podcast about Policy Labs.

For more information on this project, please contact Asheley Van Ness.


Reimagining training at the Cook County Public Defender's Office
The Cook County Public Defender is charged with providing a quality criminal defense for individuals who cannot afford legal representation. This is no small feat: the Public Defender's Office handles nearly 90 percent of cases going through Cook County's court system each year.

When Amy Campanelli stepped into her role as Public Defender last year, she challenged the organization to perform like a top-tier criminal defense law firm. To help achieve this goal, Amy identified advocacy training ---  helping her attorneys achieve the best outcomes for their clients ---  as a critical priority and began looking for new perspectives in training.

With the support of Civic Consulting, four pro bono partners ---  Chicago law firms highly skilled in advocacy, litigation, and criminal law ---  developed a unique aspect of the training curriculum:

This unprecedented collaboration between four firms has paved the way for a new approach to advocacy training at the Public Defender's Office. The partnership not only created new training materials for priority advocacy needs, but also developed a sustainability playbook to allow these firms to provide ongoing support. This work has empowered the Public Defender's Office to continue to develop like a top-tier law firm and provide the best counsel to its clients.

For more information on this project, please contact Mark Van Grinsven.


In other news...
  • Thank you to Accenture for hosting Civic Cocktails! More than 90 partners and clients attended our periodic event to celebrate Chicago's rich civic infrastructure. Gillian Darlow, the CEO of the Polk Bros. Foundation and a former Civic Consulting Principal, provided a thoughtful perspective on today's challenges and reasons for hope. We're glad you were able to join us!
Questions? Comments? Interested in writing a guest article? Please email Leslie Glotzer with any newsletter feedback.

Civic Consulting Alliance is an affiliate of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.