The Board of El Paso County Commissioners commended the Department of Human Services for writing two successful grant applications, securing more than $800,000 to fund an innovative improvement project that includes extensive collaboration with Adams, Arapahoe and Pueblo counties.
“This workflow management system is something we wanted to bring to El Paso County,” said El Paso County DHS Executive Director Julie Krow. “We were struggling to find ways to fund the project with existing dollars when we learned about these grants. The improvements will benefit those that we serve and DHS staff, especially as they interact with clients.”
El Paso County Department of Human Services (DHS) was awarded a $614,716 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services. El Paso County leads the effort in partnership with Adams and Pueblo Counties to implement the Automated SNAP Assistance Processing project (ASAP!), which includes a new workflow management system, HSConnects, created by Arapahoe County. It was one of only seven projects in the country to be awarded funds.
ASAP! will improve the efficiency of the food assistance and eligibility determination system at the county level to produce faster outcomes for clients, increase the efficiency of processing paperwork, and streamline practices.
A second award, totaling $241,717, complements the federal grant. The Colorado Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) grant will cover costs for the Medicaid side of the HSConnects system.
DHS is held to state and federal rules for processing times and error rates. HSConnects streamlines the process for food assistance and Health First Colorado (Medicaid), and has the potential to work with other systems to continue to create efficiencies.
The project was the result of significant cooperation and collaboration with DHS and the four counties involved. Leaders at Hunger Free Colorado brought these grants to the attention of DHS. The grant applications were supported by elected officials at the state and national level, as well as local.
“I am very excited to support this comprehensive project that will lead to broad improvements for the citizens of El Paso County, especially those in need,” said Congressman Doug Lamborn, Fifth Congressional District. “Counties and citizens benefit when best practices are shared.”
Colorado has experienced exponential growth in the number of individuals receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as those applying for Health First Colorado, the state’s Medicaid program. One in four people in this state has been identified as receiving Health First Colorado benefits.
Arapahoe County DHS and Information Technology developed HSConnects in response a growing annual caseload.
“Through HSConnects, Arapahoe County has been able to make good use of our resources, streamline processes and strengthen our customer service and we are so excited that we get to share our successes with other counties in Colorado,” said Nancy Sharpe, Arapahoe County Commissioner. “Arapahoe County has provided services through HSConnects since 2015 and we have always envisioned a system that would allow us to enterprise with other Counties. We are looking forward to seeing Adams, El Paso and Pueblo Counties do great things with this system we are very proud of.”
The system overlays with the State eligibility system so that caseworkers spend less time searching for documents and managing eligibility activities. HSConnects promotes greater efficiency and transparency across divisions of each county’s Department of Human Services through use of document imaging.
“It’s phenomenal the savings we will see through this implementation,” said Commissioner Peggy Littleton. “Projects like this allow the County to maximize limited resources.”
Using high-speed document scanners to digitize documents, HSConnects then reads the State’s program systems to determine when a case is due, who the documents should be routed to, and prioritizes work based upon the due date of every case with documents in the queue. HSConnects ensures that the most pressing case is worked first. The system also allows work to be transferred, reassigned or moved to a different priority to ensure all work is processed in a timely fashion.
HSConnects significantly improved customer service while refining business processes and workflow management for Arapahoe County Human Services. The software maximized resources and increased efficiencies in Human Services, streamlining the application process by 92 percent. The submittal process went from 25 minutes to 2 minutes. Once an application is submitted, caseworkers can access the information instantly, allowing for quicker response times.
The error rate dropped dramatically, from 30 percent to nearly zero. Arapahoe County Human Services has also saved 4 million sheets of paper annually and nearly $1.5 million in temporary staffing and overtime costs.
El Paso County, along with Pueblo County and Adams County, expect to see improvements and savings in their processes as the innovative program is implemented for food assistance and Health First Colorado.
“El Paso County is proud to drive innovative solutions that will improve processes for citizens,” said Board President Darryl Glenn, El Paso County Commissioner. “The County is required to provide a broad range of services, but County staff put significant effort to provide services in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”
The $856,453 in grants cover the starting costs for HSConnects. Once implemented, each county will sustain the project costs using the funds available through normal budget allocations and the expected savings HSConnects will provide from a reduction of overtime and improved staff retention. Arapahoe County will provide the three partnering counties with technical expertise.
Contact: Kristina Iodice
DHS Public Information Officer
Phone: 444-5533 Cell: 235-8478