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New Tech Helping Local Human Services Program Managers Statewide

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(credit: istock) Technology Report
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LANSING — More than 1,000 Michigan Department of Human Services county managers across the state are using advanced technology to strengthen caseworker productivity, contain costs, identify potential fraud and abuse, and improve the health and well-being of beneficiaries who rely on DHS’s food, medical, and cash assistance programs.

State officials say the new county-level data analysis and reporting tool will help achieve significant savings and improve services by enabling local managers to make critical decisions about staff, programs, and budgets based on specific local and regional needs — without awaiting action or direction from executives in Lansing.

The new technology was developed by DHS and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, in partnership with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based technology provider OptumInsight.

Using the tool’s analytic capabilities, easy-to-understand reports, and “dashboard views” of information, DHS county managers in 115 offices across Michigan have, for the first time, the local capability to:
• Deploy case workers and balance caseloads quickly and efficiently, depending on beneficiary needs, caseworker expertise, location of beneficiaries, and caseload volume.
• Examine individual county cases to determine whether beneficiaries — including many at-risk children — are being serviced effectively.
• More easily scrutinize and understand cases in their counties in which families receive multiple benefits — cash assistance, food stamps, child day care, medical assistance — to track and monitor care, services, and money spent. These cases also require more vigilance to help address the potential for fraud.
• View and analyze multiple cases associated with family members living in the same household to better understand the entirety of the household’s needs and provide integrated human services (food, medical services, housing, etc.).
• Track spending and contain costs at the county level.
• Analyze broad regional trends and coordinate needed services with other department and local community agencies.

The tool also helps social workers in the field better manage their caseloads to respond to client needs. Michigan social workers have experienced a growing number of cases brought on by staffing cuts and the economic downturn. In 2004, workers managed an average of 200 cases; today, the number has soared to an average of 600 cases per social worker. Caseworkers can now deliver more timely and effective services to beneficiaries. For example, information spanning all assistance programs is now available in one place, enabling a single caseworker to assist clients with multiple benefit programs.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers awarded Michigan first place for the county-level system in the “Data Information and Knowledge Management” category.

The technology is linked to the information-rich DHS/DTMB Lansing-based business intelligence and decision support data warehouse, also implemented in partnership with OptumInsight, which helps DHS manage virtually all of its programs.

The county solution also works in conjunction with DHS’s nationally recognized “Bridges” program, a fully automated and integrated eligibility determination and benefit issuance process for the state’s cash assistance, medical assistance, food assistance, child care, and low-income home energy programs. Because of its link with Bridges, the county-focused tool is called the Bridges Information Management Mart, or BRIMM.

More at www.optuminsight.com.

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