Apps help citizens get back to work

A case management system streamlined Delaware's case flow process, cleaned up its fiscal process and gave state workers more accurate reports, Marc Young says.

As the federal government pressures states to better integrate their training and workforce development programs, state workers are finding a greater need to consolidate the information they send to federal agencies.

Several states are using integrated case management applications to create and share one case file for each training client. Such systems represent a major improvement over those in which information is duplicated across many agencies and programs.

Delaware, Florida, Indiana and Wyoming have purchased case management systems, and other states are considering it to help meet federal data requirements for workforce development funding.

Marc Young, IT manager for Delaware's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, said his state uses a case management app from Software AG of Germany.

'We have certain data requirements, such as basic demographics, money spent on a case and date of application, that we send to the federal government,' Young said. 'If we don't meet a set of certain standards, our grant funding could be withheld.'

Data reporting

States must meet federal standards to receive the workforce development funds, which account for about 80 percent of the vocational rehabilitation office's $8 million budget.

For example, states must report the number of employed clients this year compared to last year, the percentage of all clients leaving the program who received a job, and the number of minorities and disabled minorities receiving vocational rehabilitation services.

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 requires states to create one-stop career centers, bringing all the workforce development and training agencies closer together.

Marcia Espenschied, Software AG's manager of solutions and product marketing, said this regulation and the Bush administration's focus on performance measures have prompted state agencies, especially vocational rehabilitation offices, to change their business processes.

'For many years, vocational rehabilitation services have been only interested in their own mission, but now they have to support the work of other offices too,' Espenschied said. 'A client in the vocational rehabilitation office could also be in the Welfare-to-Work program and, instead of having multiple case files, the person can now have one that is shared among the agencies.'

Young said Delaware case workers share one file for all information except medical records, which should be online by next summer.

Delaware, which has met with about 15 states over the past five years to discuss its system, has customized Software AG's basic client rehabilitation information system to meet its fiscal and case data requirements, Young said.

Each of the 30 counselors uses the client-server system on a Dell Optiplex 1.8-GHz Pentium 4 desktop PC with a 40G hard drive. The application is written in Microsoft Visual Basic, runs on .Net and Windows platforms, and stores data on a SQL server.

Delaware is moving later this year to a thin-client environment, which will run on Windows 2000, and Young expects to put the system online next year.

Debbie Watson, a Software AG IT architect, said the online system uses Web services and Extensible Markup Language to share data among state agencies.

Rehabilitation counselors fill in data through drop-down menus, which has improved the accuracy of information in the files by 65 percent, Young said.

'We have an edit checker for each file that looks for inappropriate responses, and it does cross-editing to make sure there is consistency,' Young said. 'The system helps us control our spending because of the real-time reports.'

The system also has helped the office handle 50 percent more cases'about 6,000 a year'without increasing its staff.

He said the system helps the office pay vendors more quickly and adapts easily to changing federal requirements.

'The system streamlined our case flow process, cleaned up our fiscal process and gave us more accurate reports,' Young said.

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