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How California IT Leaders Can Be a Hero to Health and Human Services

Be a hero by providing immediate support and relief to overburdened HHS workers providing critical services to families and children facing desperate needs.

COVID-19 initially forced health and human services leaders across California to rethink how and where mission-critical work could be done and which tools were truly essential to support this new way of operating. Today, the focus has shifted toward determining the best way to allocate shrinking budgets and limited resources to sustain these changes and navigate the new landscape for the long term.

IT leaders have an opportunity to be the hero that HHS agencies need right now by providing immediate support, assistance, and relief to overburdened workers so they can continue to provide these mission-critical services to families and children facing desperate needs.

Invest in Essential HHS Technology to Keep Caseworkers and Communities Safe

Telework doesn’t work without technology. Not only is technology essential for HHS workers to continue providing necessary services and benefits, but also to meet increasing demands brought on by COVID-19 while minimizing exposure and mitigating risks associated with person-to-person contact.

Specifically, technology can help HHS agencies:

  • Support remote work by establishing telework capabilities
  • Limit the need for clients to come to the agency
  • Minimize worker contact with clients in the field
  • Access case information remotely to make decisions
  • Connect supportive services with minimal disruption
  • Enable clients to interact with the agency (e.g., submit applications and information) from wherever they’re comfortable (in their home, at the agency, in the community)
Another way to look at it is that most California agencies won’t have their full staff operating from within the office for the foreseeable future.

Without the right technology, how will child or adult protective services workers access, complete, and share digital forms with families to refer services in real time? How will eligibility workers collect information to process benefits without jeopardizing their or their clients’ health? How will all workers across all programs keep up with the surge in new reports, intakes, or renewals that’s inevitably coming as restrictions lift and emergency waivers expire?

Empower HHS to Enhance Service Delivery

We’ve entered into a phase where agencies are well aware of the technology gap that COVID-19 has illuminated. The problem is defined and now it’s time to fix it.

Whether it’s a public health emergency, natural disaster, or any other event that causes uncertainty, there’s always a likelihood that something could drastically disrupt operations. Agencies must be able to pivot and react quickly to continue serving vulnerable populations without interruption.

IT can help by making sure HHS workers have essential technology and support to impact those who need help today, while positioning agencies for continued success—no matter what tomorrow brings. When evaluating purpose-built, worker-centric technology for HHS, consider these key qualities:

  • Flexible: Human services agencies are constantly trying to keep up with ever-changing policies, requirements, and a changing landscape. The right tool can evolve as key business processes do.
  • Enhance existing solutions: New technology will fill the gaps with existing solutions and easily integrate with state/enterprise systems of record (e.g., CWS-CARES, CalWIN, etc.).
  • Empower remote work: Technology must be both accessible and reliable, no matter where work is done. Service delivery shouldn’t be interrupted when the agency is forced to close its doors, limit how often workers can be in the office, or move to a long-term telework strategy.
  • Quickly deploy and realize value: Look for technology that’s readily available and can be implemented quickly. Of course, this reduces the burden on IT to build, support, and maintain a solution, but it also helps vulnerable children, adults, and families who don’t have time to wait for HHS agencies to innovate on their behalf.
Technology Toolkit: An Essential Buyer’s Guide for Human Services

Many agencies want to invest in technology but need help figuring out how to find funds or make a strong business case amid budget cuts and other competing priorities. At the same time, IT leaders have been forced to cut many planned technology expenses in order to focus on the few that will directly support telework or enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions.  

Keep in mind, these drastic changes have brought forth some emergency funding opportunities to help fulfill these previously unbudgeted needs.

We recently published a resource to help agency leaders—especially those evaluating technology for the first time—make informed purchasing decisions that are right for their needs and community. IT leaders may also be interested in checking it out to learn what their agency counterparts are asking and considering as they evaluate solutions:

Technology Toolkit: An Essential Buyer’s Guide for Human Services

The guide covers everything from prioritizing the problem to implementing and optimizing the right solution. Some sections that may pique your interest:

  • Assess your readiness. Provides surveys, self-assessments, and other tools to help agencies evaluate readiness for change and what resources are needed to be successful over time.
  • Search for a solution. Weighs options (e.g., Build or buy? Cloud or on-premise? Customize or configure?) so agencies can choose a solution designed to enhance service delivery, align with key initiatives, and support workers’ needs.
  • Think beyond the technology. Focuses on organizational process change to help agencies plan for potential risk factors, develop detailed communication plans, and put people at the center of technology and process change initiatives.
Call to Action: Preparing for What’s Next

We know communities are facing real financial concerns right now and there are questions around the best way to maximize limited resources. Now is the time to ensure the critical services being delivered by HHS workers are represented in IT planning and budgeting at both the state and local level.

Provide this essential technology today to strengthen agencies’ efforts to prioritize safety while minimizing risk and preparing to weather any future crisis that comes your way.

Northwoods is a technology company truly focused on human services. We build user-centric solutions to empower state and local workers. Northwoods is dedicated to creating revolutionary technology solutions and delivering unparalleled services to improve the lives of human services professionals and the people they serve.