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PCSAO honors legislative champions for children, families

Five state legislators were recognized for their leadership in the Ohio General Assembly on issues important to child protection.

Senator Capri Cafaro, 32nd District

Gayle Channing Tenenbaum Legislator of the Year

Sen. Capri Cafaro

PCSAO has created a new award to recognize one special legislative champion for children. This award will be called the Gayle Channing Tenenbaum Legislator of the Year. And its first recipient is Senator Capri Cafaro.

Capri Cafaro is a fourth-generation resident of Ohio’s 32nd Senate district, which represents Ashtabula, Geauga, and Trumbull, an area she has had the honor to represent since January 2007. Now entering her ninth year of service, Cafaro is the dean of the Senate Democratic caucus. During her tenure, Cafaro has established track record of legislative effectiveness and leadership, advocating for economic growth and for the voices of the vulnerable.

In 2009, Senator Cafaro was elected by her peers to serve as the Minority Leader of the Ohio Senate, a position she held for three years. During her term as Leader, Senator Cafaro was on the front lines of some of the toughest budget negotiations Ohio had seen in decades due to the national economic crisis at the time.

Senator Cafaro drew upon her extensive experience in health care policy and social service delivery to author Ohio’s Medicaid reform law. The bill created a legislative oversight body to hold the Medicaid program accountable. It also established benchmarks to slow the growth of Medicaid spending without removing people from the program. Through payment innovation, creating incentives for improving health outcomes, and a focus on prevention and population health management, Cafaro believes this law has set the foundation for a sustainable, value-driven Medicaid system that will be able to serve the newly eligible Medicaid expansion population even if the federal government walks away from providing financial support to the states for this service in the future.

Senator Cafaro has always been a fighter, whether trying to save local government programs from being cut, to supporting infant mortality efforts, to supporting the creation of a case management program for those ages 16-24. She knows that youth in foster care are transitioning out to be on their own and will need so many supports as they become employed or explore postsecondary education opportunities.

But what really lifts this senator above the crowd has been her expressed commitment both in the Mid-Biennium Review and the last Biennial Budget, where she fought for both ends of the life continuum: abused and neglected children and abused and neglected seniors.

Senator Cafaro served on the Child Welfare Funding Workgroup, appointed by the Governor to make decisions about the MBR investment of $10 million for child protection. She actively listened and asked questions of the Workgroup Chair, ODJFS Director Dungey. She was an advocate for wanting to spread the wealth among all counties vs. through a competitive grant process.

For these reasons, there is no one better suited to receive the inaugural Gayle Channing Tenenbaum Legislator of the Year Award than Senator Capri Cafaro.

Senator Scott Oelslager, 29th District

Sen. Scott Oelslager

Scott Oelslager is a longtime champion of Ohio’s children and families, and as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, he has exerted his influence and his expertise in health and human services to ensure that child protection receives the attention it deserves in the Ohio General Assembly.

Senator Oelslager brings 30 years of legislative experience to the Ohio Senate as he works to serve the voters of Stark County. He also serves as Vice-Chair of the Civil Justice Committee and as a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, Rules and Reference Committee, and the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission.

An attorney who earned his law degree from Capital University Law School, Senator Oelslager is a familiar presence at Stark County Job and Family Services. He meets frequently with the agency’s director and attends events supporting the child protection division. Most recently in the Biennial Budget, he supported creation of the Joint Legislative Committee on Multi-System Youth. For this reason and many more, PCSAO is honored to present Senator Scott Oelslager with a 2015 Legislator of the Year Award.

Senator Charleta Tavares, 15th District

Sen. Charleta Tavares

It’s probably easier to list what Senator Tavares HAS NOT done in elected office. She has been State Representative Tavares, City Council member Tavares, and is currently Assistant Minority Leader Tavares and serves on numerous committees. Outside her service in the General Assembly, she is CEO of Columbus Neighborhood Health Centers – now known as PrimaryOne Health.

At one time many years ago, Senator Tavares served as Assistant Director here at PCSAO. So it is very fitting that we honor Senator Tavares this year as we celebrate our 30th annual PCSAO conference and 35 years as an Association. Senator Tavares has truly never forgotten from where she came. Her leadership on key issues has been outstanding: Working to reduce Ohio’s high infant mortality rate overall and, within that, the huge disparity in rates between Caucasian babies and babies of color. Making certain that much-needed mental health and addiction services are available for every eligible adult and child so that families can stay together or reunite after treatment. Making sure that we provide the supports for our youth transitioning out of foster care who need an education and job training, to find and keep a job, and make certain they are connected to other supports they need to succeed.

As you’ve heard, there are many, many reasons to honor Senator Tavares. But if you take a look at AARP’s legislative directory that lists all of the legislators in both chambers, there is a section where legislators list their area of interest. Senator Tavares is the only legislator who lists “Child Welfare” on her areas of interest. And that sums up her passion, devotion and leadership on behalf of Ohio’s children and families.

We are honored to present Senator Tavares with the PCSAO 2015 Legislator of the Year Award.

Representative Denise Driehaus, 31st District

Rep. Denise Driehaus

Denise Driehaus has been coming to the House chambers here in Columbus for almost eight years now. Every time a bill dealing with the lives, health, and dreams of children is considered, she checks in to see if this policy would be good or harmful for the children served in Ohio’s child protection system.

During the deep recession, when local Job and Family services agencies had to cut staff due to budget cuts, Representative Driehaus agonized with the Hamilton County director as she made difficult decisions about letting staff go. And she remembered those days when, as the Ranking Member on Finance Committee, she worked to help get more resources to the counties to help serve these people and to protect abused and neglected children.

As she became a respected member of the Finance Committee, during the MBR in 2014, she was able to convince her own caucus and some of the members of the Majority Caucus of the need to support new resources for the child protection system and the adult protection system.

Representative Driehaus then went on to serve on the Child Welfare Funding Workgroup formed to make decisions about how these dollars might be best used. She attended every meeting and, while disappointed in the decision to allocate these dollars through grants, she continued to work hard for children in our system. She helped get language in the 2016-2017 Biennial Budget to create the Joint Legislative Committee on Multi-System Youth and, we hope, will be one of the legislators named to the committee to look at recommendations for supporting these children and youth with many serious needs. She continues to work across the aisle with another of our legislative champions, Rep. Sprague, to address the opiate epidemic in our state.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Representative Driehaus is that she brings commitment, energy, intelligence and a deep passion for our state’s children and families to all that she does. We are so honored to present Representative Driehaus with the PCSAO 2015 Legislator of the Year Award.

Representative Robert Sprague, 83rd District

Rep. Robert Sprague

Robert Sprague is currently serving his second term in the Ohio House of Representatives, following his appointment in February 2011. He serves the 83rd District, which consists of Hancock and Hardin counties, and parts of Logan County. Sprague currently serves on the House insurance and finance committees, and as Chairman of the Prescription Drug Addiction and Healthcare Reform Committee. Before coming to the Ohio House, he most recently served as City Auditor for Findlay.

Sprague graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science and from the University of North Carolina with a Master of Business Administration. Following graduation, Sprague returned to his hometown of Findlay to pursue public service. Representative Sprague and his wife, Amanda, reside in Findlay with their five children.

PCSAO selected Representative Sprague as this year’s Legislator of the Year for several reasons:

  • He is a true champion for children, families, and especially for those in recovery as is evident in his activity in the House of Representatives.
  • He has introduced and passed numerous bills dealing with all aspects of Ohio’s opiate crisis that is devastating our state and, as he is well aware, the families we are serving in child protection.
  • He has co-sponsored several opiate-related bills with Representative Driehaus, another PCSAO Legislator of the Year, showing that Ohio’s response to this epidemic is not going to be a partisan issue but one everyone in the state needs to care about and address.
  • He added money in the latest biennial budget for much-needed recovery homes.
  • He was also a champion for us in this last biennium budget by fighting hard to make certain there was specific language that would give all of the groups working on the transition of behavioral health services from Medicaid fee-for-service to managed care enough time to make certain no children would lose any service they are now receiving when the transition occurs in 2018.
  • He supported language for the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee, of which he was one of the creators, to monitor the transition process of behavioral health services to managed care over the next three years – and again to ensure no children or adults would lose any service they are currently receiving.

We are pleased to present Representative Robert Sprague with PCSAO’s 2015 Legislator of the Year Award.