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Cuyahoga County Receives Highest Number of NACo Awards in Ohio

by Devyn Giannetti , Senior Communications Specialist, Department of Communications

The National Association of Counties (NACo) just released its yearly NACo Achievement Awards, that seeks to recognize innovative County government programs.

Cuyahoga County received an Achievement Award for seven critical initiatives, the highest number of awards in the State of Ohio.

Below are the initiatives that received awards:

CuyahogaKids (Category: Children and Youth)
Driven by the critical importance of early childhood brain development, and aware that many children in our community struggle in their journey to Kindergarten readiness, the Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood (OEC) launched CuyahogaKids.org in late 2017. We built a new interactive resource where families with young children could find high-quality childcare and preschool, fun things to do, and get connected to important County resources when needed. When searching for high-quality childcare or preschool, CuyahogaKids only displays options that are rated high quality in Ohio’s Step Up to Quality rating system, and directs parents first to sites participating in Invest in Children’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program where scholarships of up to 50 percent are available. By ensuring that only well-established organizations can contribute content, OEC can make certain that the events are appropriate for young children and developmentally rich.

Scamo Consumer Education Game (Category: Civic Education and Public Information)
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs created Scamo, a bingo-style consumer education game, to teach the County’s older residents to spot, avoid and report scams. The interactive game lets Consumer Affairs teach seniors about scams in a fun, relaxed environment. Scamo was designed to be easy enough to play that staff at senior facilities would feel comfortable putting it into their regular game night rotation. This allows seniors to continue to learn important information about scams from sources they know and trust—even when Consumer Affairs staff can’t be there.

Equity Zones Map/Policy (Category: Community and Economic Development)
On July 26, 2021, the County Executive issued Executive Order No. EO2021-0015 directing the establishment of a map of Cuyahoga County identifying areas of historic disinvestment to be known as Equity Zones and the development/implementation of policies and procedures that will result in the County providing additional consideration to investments in road projects, building projects, development projects and programming in identified Equity Zones. In an effort to ameliorate the effects of past disinvestment, Cuyahoga County will focus and prioritize investments on infrastructure, construction, and development projects and programming to benefit areas of Cuyahoga County that have suffered historic disinvestment.

Manufacturing Sector Partnership (Category: Community and Economic Development)
A new sector partnership has ramped up access to careers in manufacturing, and transformed the way businesses and workforce partners together. The Manufacturing Sector Partnership launched in 2019 to address huge needs for manufacturing workers, expand residents’ access to well-paying jobs, and support. Thus far, 80 individuals have graduated from the program, with higher-than-average job retention and zero recidivism. Additionally, by more deeply connecting manufacturers to existing training programs, and supporting student/jobseeker exposure to manufacturing, ~400 more workers have been hired into manufacturing careers. Informed by this success, public/private/philanthropic partners—led by the County team—launched three new sector partnerships (IT, healthcare, and hospitality) between August 2020 and January 2022.

Cuyahoga County Diversion Center (Category: Criminal Justice and Public Safety)
The Diversion Center was developed as a solution to keep individuals out of the criminal justice system and connect them with the treatment options they need and deserve. The intended client population was low-level, nonviolent misdemeanor offenders who are more appropriately served in a therapeutic facility in lieu of jail. Cuyahoga County recognized the need of these services by other residents and expanded eligibility criteria beyond criminal justice interacting within the first 6 months of opening. The Center offers clients various services that include assessment, detox, medication, counseling, and referrals to other community organizations. This evidence-based approach has been proven to reduce recidivism, increase economic self-sufficiency, and decrease overall criminal justice operation costs in the process. The Center—the first of its kind in the State of Ohio—opened on May 3, 2021, and has served 211 clients in its first 10 months. In that same 10-month span, approximately 800 sessions involving crisis intervention training were provided to officers and dispatchers across 55 different agencies as part of the program.

HHS User-Centric Website Consolidation (Category: Information Technology)
In October of 2018, the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) kicked off the HHS User-Centric Website Consolidation Project. The goal of the project was to create a consumer-centric approach for providing services to the public, delivering content to those in need in an intuitive, easy to read format that was ADA compliant. DoIT worked with the HHS agencies and partnered with American Eagle, Inc. to break down content siloes within departments, eliminate duplicative content, identify service areas and audiences, and make it easier for residents, clients, and community partners to access services and information based on need. The resulting website provides options to search based on need (example: I need food, housing, etc.) or audience (example: I am a single mother, senior, etc.)

Countywide Lakefront Public Access Plan: A Resilient & Accessible Lakefront for All (Category: Planning)
The Cuyahoga County Lakefront Public Access Plan (LPAP) seeks to expand lakefront public access while improving coastal protection along primarily privately-owned shorelines. The Lakefront Public Access Plan builds on the successful public-private partnership model built in Euclid, Ohio—a community at the eastern edge of Cuyahoga County. That model and the Plan offer a framework in which private landowners voluntarily donate or provide lakefront easements to the County to construct new public lakefront access that enhances recreation in exchange for public investment in shoreline protection—something that can only be truly effective when addressed at scale versus on a parcel-by-parcel basis. The LPAP identifies new public access along 50% of the shoreline, supports more equitable distribution of community access, defines a continuous multimodal lakefront route connecting east-west throughout the county, and suggests a more resilient shoreline countywide.