Brent Never: Breaking Community Boundaries

Photo Credit: Dan Videtich Photography

Photo Credit: Dan Videtich Photography

As a political scientist at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, Brent Never, Ph.D. focuses on the equity of economic policies and solutions.

“My research is in the geography of services for disadvantaged individuals,” says Never, associate professor in the Department of Public Affairs. “Since Ronald Reagan was president, more services in the United States have been moved from government-provided services to private service or nonprofit.

“A political scientist is concerned with power: who has it and what do they do with it. I am most concerned with the incentives that public leaders have in privatizing public services,” he adds.

According to Never, businesses have the incentive to provide those services that are profitable, such as hospice care. Largely left to faith-based and nonprofit organizations, hospice now represents a growth industry due to full Medicare funding. When services follow the money, individuals unable to pay are more likely left out.

“There are real concerns about due process under the law for privatized services,” Never says. “While government is required to serve everybody equitably, private organizations, including nonprofits, have an incentive to pick the most profitable clients.”

Never is extremely concerned about equity in the availability of services. His current research looks at ways to identify situations in which services are not readily available to people in need. He contends that geography has a profound influence on where service providers locate.

“As a community, Kansas City has stark boundaries: Troost Avenue, the state line, the Missouri River,” he says. “There are four mental health providers in Brookside, while other areas have none, which is about economics. I want to start a conversation about where the services are located.”

Never is very involved with mapping access to human services. These can run from mental health counseling and drug abuse treatment to youth development and legal aid. Since many of the services have been privatized over the last 30 years, there is no requirement to place service centers throughout a region. The government had the requirement, but private providers do not.

“My work is to map the connection between where people are and where their services are located. I have found that poorer people and minorities have the least access to human services,” he says.

“I want to help inform the decisions regarding where things should be,” Never shares. “As an academic, my job is to help create the models that will, in turn, affect public policy. We are an action-oriented department and seek to translate knowledge for the public at large. Ultimately, my goal is to influence public policy.”

This article is included in the 2016 Bloch Magazine. To read the full edition, click here.

Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications


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