Ledman leaving JFCS on steady course

Shira Ledman, president and CEO of Jewish Family & Children's Services
Shira Ledman

Five years ago, when Shira Ledman took the helm at Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona, her husband, Bob, relocated with her to Tucson.

Now it is her turn to follow her husband, a professor of business, as he takes a job with South University in Austin, Texas. Ledman will be stepping down as president and CEO of JFCS at the end of the month.

“I came in 2008, when the world changed,” says Ledman. As the economy plunged into recession, JFCS saw the government grants that had funded most of its programs disappear.

“How do you turn the ship in the right direction,” asks Ledman, “where you’re looking at more diverse funding and more sustainable models?” She’s proud of what JFCS has accomplished in building a new fee-for-service model, which includes “building all of these wonderful partnerships that helped that fee-for-service” and expanding services in both the Jewish and the broader community (see www.azjewishpost.com/ 2013/partnerships-help-jfcs-expand-behavioral-health-care-services).

As government contracts ended, she notes, the people who ran those programs also left.

“But out of every challenge there’s opportunity,” she says, which JFCS embraced by bringing in more independently licensed staff members, who can accept insurance. “We never took insurance” before these changes occurred, “which meant that we were not serving a huge portion of the community.”

Today, she says, “we have such a variety of ways” to serve people, that the key is not the payment source but finding the right therapist to address a client’s issues. And that’s just in clinical services, she adds, noting that the agency also provides care management and other services.

One boon is being able to provide more services for Holocaust survivors, not only at the JFCS office, but also at senior living facilities, particularly those with a large population of Russian speakers (see www.azjewishpost.com/ 2012/from-buses-to-bills-jfcs-holocaust-program-aids-survivors).

Ledman “led us out of the quagmire,” says JFCS board chair Jill Rosenzweig. “She will be remembered forever as the CEO who brought a viable business plan to JFCS.”

JFCS has hired an interim director, Jeanne Anderson, who will start Nov. 26, says Rosenzweig. Anderson received her Master of Science degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from the University of Arizona and her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Hawaii. She has served as CEO of several nonprofits, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of King and Pierce County in Washington state. Most recently, she started a nonprofit consulting practice that provides interim leadership, training and facilitation services to nonprofit organizations. She will help in the search for a new CEO.

Among the challenges and opportunities facing the new CEO, says Ledman, will be changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act. JFCS has already begun to work with pilot programs that integrate physical and mental health care, with one therapist working through the Arizona Connected Care program at New Pueblo Medicine and another at University Medical Center’s pediatric endocrinology clinic, supporting children and families dealing with diabetes. “That’s really exciting,” says Ledman.

But the agency, like all behavioral health agencies, will have to figure out how to grow services and keep them sustainable, she says, noting that mental health counseling often requires weekly visits, which can make co-pays add up quickly.

“Philanthropic support is very important,” says Ledman, to help both those who have no means of payment and those who may have insurance but find co-pays prohibitive.

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona helps support a sliding fee-scale for the Jewish community, she says, and there is other donor support for a sliding fee-scale for the general community. JFCS is one of the JFSA’s five beneficiary agencies.

While Ledman is looking forward to exploring Austin, which is known for its music scene, she will miss Tucson. “As always, you miss the people, the relationships you’ve formed,” she says. “And the mountains.”