County News

Human Services, IT Collaboration Boosts Service

Nidia James, business associate with the Arapahoe County, Colorado, Human Services Department, enters a document through a high-speed scanner to digitize the paperwork. Nina Paulson, Community and Child Support Services supervisor, looks on. Photo courtesy of Arapahoe County.

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Problem: As its caseloads increased, Arapahoe County, Colorado’s Human Services Department had long wait times and errors in application forms, causing the county to hire temporary workers to pick up the slack.

Solution:The county created its own software that scans and digitizes documents and prioritizes work based on the case’s due date, dramatically slashing wait times, error rates and overtime costs.

Several years ago, Arapahoe County, Colorado’s Department of Human Services found that it was handling caseloads that had ballooned to about 105,000 clients from approximately 45,000. As the caseloads grew, customer wait times increased and errors on applications multiplied, costing the county overtime pay for temporary staff.

In 2014, the Human Services Department asked the IT Department to develop software to streamline the workflow. The new software, HSConnects, used best practices from the Human Services Department.

“We automated the best practices is what we’ve done,” said Bob Prevost, deputy director of the Human Services Department. “We sat in a room for four months and white-boarded every process.” They slashed 20 redundancies in their system during the process.

Three IT staffers developed a prototype in three months and launched HSConnects Feb. 20, 2015. The software reads the state’s program systems to find when a case is due, which documents should be routed. The program prioritizes work by due date for each case. HSConnects makes sure that the most pressing case is first in line.

Before they began using the new software, applications for everything from food assistance to Colorado’s Medicaid program took an average of 25 minutes; that time shrunk by 92 percent after clients and employees began using the new software. In addition to seeing processing times shrink, errors on applications went from about 30 percent to nearly zero.

In addition to saving time and reducing errors, the county saved 4 million sheets of paper in the past two years and nearly $1.5 million it had spent on overtime costs for temps.

Arapahoe County earned the 2016 C-Stat Distinguished Performance Award from the Colorado Department of Human Services for outstanding performance. and a NACo Achievement Award.

Now Arapahoe County is sharing its HSConnects workflow management system with Adams, El Paso and Pueblo counties through a multicounty project thanks to more than $800,000 in federal and state funding.

“Customers in Adams, El Paso and Pueblo counties will applaud the improved customer service HSConnects will bring to them,” said Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe. “We are so proud of this software and it is a win for us when we get to help other counties to be more successful.”

“Our partnership with other counties was very helpful in securing our grant,” she said. “El Paso County’s leadership was fantastic and hiring a grant writer was the key to our successful grant application.”

Bessen said that use of the software will continue to grow. “We have seven or eight counties in the queue at the moment,” he said. Prevost noted that 55 percent of the state will be on the system eventually and will be interconnected, which will come in handy if residents move across county lines.

“HSConnects will assist our partner counties to achieve accurate and timely administration of programs and will provide a single door approach to link services across programs and our organizations, thus allowing customers seamless access and no duplication,” Cheryl Ternes, director of Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, said.  “The future of HSConnects holds many more opportunities for counties, including data analytics and holistic customized assessments of the services a family may need.”

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