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DHS News Newsletter January 2008 

The DHS Data Warehouse Part II -- The DW as Community Resource

January 2008

Now that the Data Warehouse has become the repository for such an extensive and diverse body of data, there is little wonder that those whose research is data-driven are interested in tapping into its bounty.

The fact that it is possible to discern relationships across any combination of data points makes using the Data Warehouse even more valuable to those outside of DHS. For example, anyone using the Data Warehouse could find the number of children under the age of 3 (first data point) with parents currently incarcerated in the Allegheny County Jail (second data point) who live on the Northside of Pittsburgh (third data point) and have received services for early intervention since 2005 (fourth and fifth data points).

Add in the interface with Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping and the Data Warehouse utility for local, state and national researchers is limitless.  

This level of utility is no surprise to the architects of the Data Warehouse. Original funding through the community by way of local foundations (See Human Services Integration Fund) came about through a mutual recognition of the utility of the Data Warehouse as a community resource. Universities, research institutes, government entities, local foundations, consulting agencies and graduate students all anticipated seeing the Data Warehouse as a virtual gold mine of information.
They were not disappointed. What follows are examples of how the availability of the information, stored in the Data Warehouse and accessible through its reporting capability, has enhanced human services provider’s ability to better serve their most vulnerable populations. Further, when the community benefits, DHS benefits as well, since whether the research is DHS-directed or independent, improving the knowledge base ultimately improves service delivery for the community at large.

  • Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work have received funding to investigate and document how experiences in the child welfare system are associated with subsequent outcomes such as educational attainment and employment, criminal justice involvement, poverty and homelessness. The research will rely on the Data Warehouse to provide a comprehensive source of administrative data that will allow for an examination of the degree to which youth are involved in multiple systems and enable a comparison of these groups across specific outcomes. The results of this research will help shape services delivery for transition-aged youth.
  • The RAND Corporation relied on de-identified information from the Data Warehouse to form the basis for its research on the cost-efficiency of the Allegheny County Mental Health Court. The report, published in March 2007, was touted locally as solid evidence of the fiscal prudence of the program and nationally to encourage other counties to take a serious look at providing similar alternatives to incarceration due to their intrinsic value and their relatively lower costs. 
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded a research study to track the migration of individuals who were displaced when a low-income housing development in Allegheny County was razed. Since many of the persons who relocated were also receiving services through DHS, their addresses and case information, both before and after the move, were included in the Data Warehouse. By interfacing this information with Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping, the relationships between new residences and social services providers could be analyzed.
  • In 2005, the Funders in Criminal Justice supported the analysis of information in the Data Warehouse to satisfy Allegheny County’s responsibility in a national effort spearheaded by the Council of State Governments to track the re-entry of former jail and prison inmates into the community. The study views geographic mapping of residences, repercussions for family members and the location and (non)utilization of services. Since the Data Warehouse combines DHS data with that of the Allegheny County Jail and the State Department of Corrections, the ongoing analysis can be done periodically and supply needed information for policy planning for this important population.
  • Having successfully described a model of parent/infant psychotherapy that helps parents build a nurturing relationship with their infants despite postpartum mental health problems that might interfere, researchers and professionals are working to formulate a vision of infant mental health for Allegheny County. Data from the Data Warehouse provided a concrete assessment of the needs currently unmet within the population who are receiving human services support.
  • In an effort to improve outcomes, graduate students from the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz School combined information gleaned from the Data Warehouse with data from other sources to evaluate the current system used by the Allegheny County Adult Probation Department to manage the cases of probationers under electronic monitoring (EM). Their research showed that including components of current and past mental health and/or drug and alcohol treatment in the assessment tool could add valuable elements to better determine the level of intensity needed for effective probation oversight.

One ancillary benefit of the Data Warehouse for DHS is the role it plays in exposing promising graduates to the value of working in the field of human services. Because it has become the research tool of choice for so many local graduate students, the Data Warehouse may become a powerful recruiting tool as well.

Interesting bytes

In calendar year 2007, 19,538 people spent at least one day in the Allegheny County Jail.  (Unduplicated statistic)

Of these 19,538 people:

8,206 (42 percent) also had some involvement with DHS mental health services 
6,057 (31 percent) also had some involvement with DHS drug and alcohol services
4,103 (21 percent) also had children with some involvement with DHS child welfare system
1,172  (6 percent) also had some involvement with DHS hunger and housing services
  977   (5 percent) also had some involvement with DHS employment and training services
  390   (2 percent) had also attended DHS family support centers
  195   (1 percent) also had some involvement with DHS Area Agency on Aging
  195   (1 percent) also had some involvement with DHS mental retardation services

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