Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 29, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Greater Phoenix Forward Report


  • The Arizona State University College of Public Programs and the Morrison Institute have released a new report regarding the future needs of the human services infrastructure in the Valley. ASU Public Programs Dean Debra Friedman talks about the report.
Guests:
  • Debra Friedman - Dean of Public Programs, Arizona State University
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript

Ted Simons
>>> There is a new report out that talks about changing demographics for the Valley and what needs to be done to meet infrastructure needs in the future. The "Greater Phoenix Forward" report was put out by the Arizona State University College of Public Programs and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. The report talks about human services already in place and how demographic changes will impact needed services in the future. Earlier, I talked to Debra Friedman, Dean of Public Programs at A.S.U., about the Greater Phoenix Forward report.

Ted Simons
>> And Debra, thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Debra Friedman
>> My pleasure.

Ted Simons
>> What did this report look for and what did it find?

Debra Friedman
>> Good questions. What we were looking for were ways to help our community understand the human services infrastructure challenges in the next five years. A lot of focus on growth in greater Phoenix, but the implications of that growth on the human side were very much what we were attempting to understand.

Ted Simons
>> And in that sense, the purpose in doing the report is to plan for the future, which is always a moving target.

Debra Friedman
>> Yes, especially challenging in the cases where human beings, rather than say physical infrastructure is under consideration.

Ted Simons
>> Let's start with that. There is a competition when we talk infrastructure, bricks and mortar, and we have dealing with human beings.

Debra Friedman
>> I was actually inspired by how well the Phoenix had planned for, say, transportation. Not necessarily that we have implemented everything, but the planning was quite excellent and also with utilities. I thought wouldn't it be interesting if we applied that same kind of approach to planning on the human services infrastructure side.

Ted Simons
>> It was interesting in the report, Phoenix, the Valley in general, it is not necessarily the land of the snow birds and land of retirees.

Debra Friedman
>> Yes, and that came through very clearly in the report. The age of the population is on average younger than the national average. And that comes as a surprise to many, many people. It is -- it -- we have to prepare for a relatively younger population, rather than a relatively older one. At the same time, of course, the aging population is also growing in size and there is an interesting statistic, for example, the over 85 group is going to double in the coming years.

Ted Simons
>> As far as those young folks though, talk about some of the things that are focused there. I would imagine be everything from families to crime as well.

Debra Friedman
>> Yeah, indeed. Crime is a young person's pursuit. So, if we think about really planning for that five to 14 age group, the largest growing age group relatively, then we have to think about prevention services in drug abuse, mental health, young families. All of those kinds of things. And this report really focuses our attention on what is necessary in order to help those young people move through that period of time successfully.

Ted Simons
>> I notice as well a concern is a lack of systemic data. First of all, what are we talking about there, and, secondly, how do you get the stuff?

Debra Friedman
>> Those are very good questions and very important. The lack of systemic data means that it is very difficult to follow clients through the system, to understand what kinds of interventions they've had that are successful or less successful, and how we can best use our resources to address those -- the needs of those clients. At the same time, one of the things that also comes through is that the human services system is as complicated for the providers as it is for the clients. Because the services come from the city and the county and the state, and also from the nonprofit sector and also from private sectors. It is a very complex environment.



Ted Simons
>> Indeed. And it sounds like just even getting that data is going to cost bucks.

Debra Friedman
>> It is. The thing about it costing bucks is that it costs bucks in perpetuity. In order for it to be successful, there has to be a commitment to keep those data over time infinitely.

Ted Simons
>> Indeed. I notice as well something that, again, is just a part of growth and a part of just evolution here, labor shortages.

Debra Friedman
>> Yes. Particularly poignant for my college, College of Public Programs, because we see for example a shortage coming in both the public sector, but also social workers. Social work shortage is important because social workers are the number one providers of mental health services in the United States. If there are insufficient numbers, where are those services going to come from? We have to start training sufficient numbers of social workers to take the place of those retiring and also meet the growth of population.

Ted Simons
>> Budgeting for human services in tough economic times, that has to be a major challenge.

Debra Friedman
>> It is. When there are tough economic times, more people need the services and there are fewer bucks to apply to them. One of the things, the reception of this report has been quite encouraging, and part of the reason is that public providers and also nonprofit providers want to make sure that their dollars are spent in thoughtful and smart ways. So, understanding what is coming in the future helps them to know where best to spend the next dollar.

Ted Simons
>> How does illegal immigration play into this report and in terms of what you studied and what has to be dealt with in the future?

Debra Friedman
>> Well, there are a variety of sources of population growth, and illegal immigration is hard to estimate, as you know, but it does play in. However, the analysts who dealt with that in the report suggested that illegal immigration is motivated by economic factors, and so, if there are fewer draws here for whatever reason, that population will decrease.

Ted Simons
>> Last question. What do you want to see done with this report?

Debra Friedman
>> We are in phase two now. That is -- we are presenting this report in a variety of places to people who can use the analyses. The third phase will be joint strategic planning between practitioners and the university for preparation, for example, in the labor force shortages, strategic planning by sector, where practitioners who are all dealing with the same kinds of issues, say substance abuse, needs of the elderly, will come together and see how they can best move forward together given the analyses of the challenges that lie ahead.
Ted Simons
>> All right. Very good. Thank you for joining us.

Debra Friedman
>> Thank you for having me.

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