Nevada county sees millions in fed reimbursements through analytics solution

In an interview with CivSource, officials with the Clark County Family Services Department said new data warehousing and analytics solutions have allowed the county to improve services and capitalize on an agency overhaul, despite the declining economy and increasing need for county services.

Clark County, Nevada is the 15th largest county in the US, home to the Las Vegas Strip and nearly 2 million people. The county’s Family Services Department recently announced the collection of $9 million in federal reimbursements by using an analytics-driven targeted case management (TCM) system. By leveraging analytics, Family Services intertwined data from their fiscal and eligibility teams to streamline their internal reporting and compliance, while improving service delivery to the families of Clark County.

According to Lori Higdon, senior business systems analyst for Clark County’s Department of Information Technology, Nevada had a bifurcated child welfare system prior to 2004. The state was responsible for “back-end” operations – childcare and adoptions – and the county was responsible for front-end, or child protective services and investigations. But legislation passed the State Assembly requiring Clark County to incorporate back-end services, as well as begin using the state’s automated child welfare system, called UNITY (Unified Nevada Information Technology for Youth).

“Clark County had been using a customized case management system prior to that, so there was significant change in the business operations because of the change in systems, as well as taking on new services,” Ms. Higdon said, “We had to benchmark and monitor in different ways.”

Ms. Higdon says a request for information was released between 2003 and 2004 for an analytics solution that would integrate with UNITY and the county’s GIS and ERP systems. “It needed to be scalable and transform raw data into accurate and usable strategic knowledge,” she said.

The county selected IBM through the RFI, and began the project in phases, according to business area. Child protective services and investigations were targeted first, with the back-end services to follow. This technology enactment was being planned and implemented around the same time that new management was brought into Family Services, said Eboni Washington, a senior management analyst with the department.

“Management wanted access to information, to drive policy decisions with our data,” she said. “They started a whole host of new policies and procedures based on data and information – it was a bit of a culture change with the field staff.”

But Ms. Washington said the county started a performance management initiative to help the staff understand why their processes had to change.

The three-year project cost just over $3 million for hardware, software, consulting time and training. But after the first few phases of the new system were developed, the IT department was able to reallocate a full time employee who had been spending time to provide operational reports, according to Ms. Higdon. “The reporting time was greatly decreased with the new data warehouse,” she said, “we saw a decrease from 14.3 hours per report to 6.5.”

“We developed a series of customized executive dashboards, which made reporting to management seamless. The new system gave them an ability to run specific reports in a one-stop-shop,” Ms. Washington added.

Ms. Washington said Family Services saw an increase in compliance, a decrease in overdue investigations and they were able to make sure children had contact with county staff when they were supposed to. Supervisors were also able to compare performance between districts and share information and best practices among one another.

A little over 20 months ago, Cognos was added to the system, and the targeted case management (TCM) program began seeing patterns in cases and generating reports that could measure improvements. “There was collaboration between data analysis, Family Services’ fiscal team, FS eligibility teams and IT,” Ms. Washington said.

The system was able to piece together information across Family Services, outside care providers and foster homes, generating more than $9 million in federal reimbursements that would have gone uncollected.

The rapidly declining economy would have come down much harder on Family Services, Ms. Washington said, had it not been for the analytics solution. There had been a great deal of progress since the new director, and it would have been difficult to maintain, let alone increase, quality of services with added caseloads, she said.

“We were able to offset personnel costs, prevent layoffs – and prevent the increased case load that would have come from layoffs.”

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