Innovations Awards

The city of Auburn, Wash., had never had an economic development department.  So when Doug Lein was hired as the city’s economic development manager—with an eye toward gaining certification for an Innovation Partnership Zone, or IPZ—he and his team went big. They put a business plan for economic development and the certification process for the IPZ designation on track to coincide. They used the economic development plan as the basis for certification for the IPZ.

Shortly after completing a national exam that would certify him as a master counselor in 1995, David Covington took a phone call from a distressed middle-aged man. “He was calling me to basically tell the world goodbye,” said Covington, of Magellan Health Services, which contracts with the Arizona Department of Health to serve as the regional behavioral health authority for Maricopa County. “He had a shotgun and was going to shoot himself.”

Water is critically important to Michigan. “If you ask most people in Michigan about the importance of water, they would say, ‘it’s the essence of our being’ or ‘it’s the essence of our living’ or ‘it’s the essence of our life,'” said Patty Birkholz, a former state senator and current director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes. Just look at the state—it touches four of the five Great Lakes and is almost completely surrounded by water. Agriculture, manufacturing and tourism—the state’s three largest industries—depend on the Great Lakes.

Franny Holland knows what it’s like to have to start over. She also knows what it’s like for someone to throw her a life preserver. Holland was serving a prison sentence in California in the late '90s and had been a heroin user for 20 years. After she was released, she said, God gave her exactly what she needed—the world’s meanest probation officer. He sent her to a rehab program for six months, where she discovered she also was bipolar. The Oklahoma Collaborative Mental Health Re-entry Program tries to throw a life preserver to people like Holland. The program is one of the 2012 Innovations Awards winners from The Council of State Governments.

The Georgia Department of Corrections had a problem with probation two years ago. It was upside down, with the majority of officers managing the probationers who were least likely to reoffend.  Of the 105,000 offenders on active probation in Georgia, more than 80,000 of them are deemed low risk and not likely to reoffend. They had to find a more efficient way to handle the high volume of low-risk offenders to free up more officers to provide better case management for higher risk offenders. Technology was the key.