Ombuds Metrics for Community Ombudsmanship Intervention Roles

In some recent reading on Community Outreach Programs some “team intervention” models and costs were outlined for impacting community related conflict and violence.  The basis of the discussion compared “ad hoc” intervention as a result of conflict and violence from domestic family, workplace and gang related “disputes” resulting in “traditional” city services intervention using police, fire, district attorney, public defender, prison/jail system, community clinics/hospitals and all types of social services that try to deal with the problem after the fact.  While Ombudsman participation was not specifically outlined, they did site “community mediators” and “collaborative facilitators” as a member of the very effective and quantified team model.

The key success of the intervention model was to structure a team of about 5 people in various roles and each member would “take the lead” contingent upon the type of “dispute”.  By example “ex gang members” were used for gang violence and “ex spouses” were used for domestic abuse interventions.  Also key was the cooperative efforts of governmental agencies to notify the team that intervention was necessary based on social worker, police reports or medical emergency reports with indicated “harm” in person to person conflict versus work accidents.  Team members participate as part of their “time on the job” where decision makers and managers “rotate” human resources and assign members towards conflict intervention strategies versus the financial consequences of handling the event after the fact and after “damage is done”.  This is the KEY in that no significant extra cost for city budgets is needed yet the impact of the program is 100% successful where intervention was provided prior to any escalating of conflict.

Some of the numbers used to benchmark the benefit and justify cost structuring for the program were CDC figures stating that the average “personal” dollar cost from conflict and violence was resulting in loss of income was $57,000 per person nationally.  An additional $24,000 in medical expenses per person annually was also a national average.  Worst of all, if the “incident” escalated to a felony assault or crime the cost of processing through the legal system and first year incarceration was $486,000 per person to TAX PAYERS.  Please keep in mind that one city has published data, OO previously reported this, that “legal staff” costs about $94,000 a year per employee in a 1998 published study.  To sum up, worst case scenario, total cost per person, per incident, could be over $500,000.

I’m writing this to enable all types of “peace builders” with just a little data to justify their “discussions” with potential clients, agencies, groups, individuals, parties to current conflict and many more “at risk” people so as to get their project or programs up and running.  Currently, on regular posts by Ombuds Blog, universities are “incorrectly” determining that they can no longer “afford” an ombudsman program or are abandoning preparations to implement or hire ombudsmen.  In reality the university ombuds infrastructure is well positioned to leverage expertise “externally” to their immediate community, it just takes some minor adjustments to the Terms of Reference.  Further justification for this is that as the “economy melts” now, tensions are higher and news reports are about the increase in gun sales as city services now have problems meeting “call demand”.  Reports of divorce and domestic disputes are up.  In my business practice I have increased weekly inquiries regarding disputes business owners are facing from employee stress and anger to vendor supply “no notice” increased pricing and property management or landlord issues who are manipulating the law to their advantage without regard for the business owner, employees and the greater community good.  It’s a mess out there and it’s going to get worse as the tax base revenue for cities declines and deficits for “bail out” increase and large companies “price adjust” to “recover losses”.  All of this begs the “real core issue” and question, “should we provide intervention and prevention with slight increases in budget projected costs OR hope we can deal with uncontrolled “hyper inflated” costs related to the aftermath of conflict and violence?”

I also write this because, like me, most ombudsman or mediators practice “alone” and more and more, as with the classical ombudsman model for some cities, it’s a team approach that makes the real impact for positive “damage control” and lasting individual transformation towards “peace” when made aware, vicariously or first hand, of the “real cost” of uncontrolled emotions and chaos.  Do your best…


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