Governor: Innovative State Programs Receive Harvard Award

Press Release

By:  Brian Schweitzer
Date: Sept. 25, 2012
Location: Unknown

Governor Brian Schweitzer announced today that two state programs received national recognition from Harvard University for its creative solution to a government issue. The programs, started by the Schweitzer Administration, are featured by Harvard's JFK School of Government "Innovations in Government" Program. The State of Montana received recognition for two programs: Nancy's Garden and the Workers' Compensation Management Program.

"As the director of the Harvard program said, "Government innovation does not require endless resources and generous budgets,'" said Governor Brian Schweitzer. "I can't agree more. What innovation takes is figuring out ways to do more with less. It was obvious to me that we had to find a way to control what we were spending for workers compensation insurance as another way of operating government more efficiently, while improving the safety and health of our employees. We are honored to have this recognition from Harvard."

As part of the Governor's initiative, the state Department of Administration started a "workers' compensation management program" in its Health Care and Benefits Division. The program focused on starting employee safety programs in every agency and getting injured employees back to work as soon as medically possible. As a result, the State has been able to decrease premiums an average of 4% per year from 2009 to 2011 compared to the average 21.5% increase from 2000 to 2006.

"The State of Montana has worked hard to lower workers' compensation premiums to save tax dollars. In addition, last session I signed legislation to lower premiums by an average of 20% for businesses across the state. Both are important steps in fixing a work comp system that has been ranked as one worst in the nation," said Schweitzer.

Nancy's Garden is a feature of the Governor and First Lady's Math & Science Initiative. Nancy's Garden provides a gardening experience for Montana students by supplying grow boxes, seeds, lesson plans, and instructions for their classrooms. The program was a partnership between Montana businesses, state agencies, Montana University System and K-12 schools that shared a vision to grow minds, healthy bodies, and gardens. The garden boxes were made by Montana Correctional Enterprises out of recycled materials--unused license plates and lumber from beetle-killed timber. Seed packets were donated by a Montana-based seed company, Fisher's Garden Store. A teacher's guide was designed with the help of gardening and nutrition experts from the Montana Department of Agriculture, Montana State University Extension, Montana Team Nutrition, Office of Public Instruction, and the Governor's Office of Community Service. Employees from across state government helped distribute the materials to 230 schools and organizations. The program continues to fill requests from schools and youth programs. To learn more about Nancy's Garden, please visit: mathscience.mt.gov.

"It is truly an honor for Nancy's Garden to be named a national leader among government innovations," said First Lady Nancy Schweitzer. "Nancy's Garden harnessed the expertise of Montanans to give all students a fun opportunity to learn about math, science, and healthy eating."

Harvard's program has been recognizing innovative ideas for the last three years. This year it selected 111 "Bright Ideas in Government" to showcase on an online platform for practitioners and policymakers to share innovative public policy solutions. Programs were evaluated and selected by a team of policy experts from academic and public sectors. Read more about this program at: http://www.ash.harvard.edu/. A full list is available here: http://www.ash.harvard.edu/ash/Home/News-Events/Press-Releases/Innovations/Harvard-s-Ash-Center-Announces-111-Bright-Ideas-in-Government/2012-Bright-Ideas