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 Data Warehouse Project

When DHS was first created, the organization faced an overwhelming challenge to wrap its hands around its slew of separate information systems. Each of the major program areas of DHS (Aging; Children, Youth & Families; Community Services; Behavioral Health; Mental Retardation) had its own legacy data system and many other disparate databases. Not one of these systems could speak to the other. As a result, DHS had no way to develop a complete view of its consumers across program offices.

Through the generosity of the foundation community, DHS created a new computing architecture that could support the integrated vision for the department. First, DHS implemented a new operating system referred to as eCAPS (electronic Consumer and Provider System). The initial program areas included in eCAPS were Mental Health, Drug & Alcohol, and Mental Retardation. During 2001, employment and training information was brought into production. In 2003, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) was added. HMIS tracks data, at the case management level, on all homeless programs funded by DHS. Special programs such as Community Connections for Families (CCF) and the Forensic Unit at the Jail also now use the application.

With the rollout of eCAPS, DHS could now move to integrate all of its programmatic and financial data into a common data warehouse. DHS soon recognized that the data stored in the DW would be valuable as a resource tool for research, strategic planning, needs assessment and program evaluation not only to DHS but to the broader community as well. An advisory committee, consisting of community leaders, conducted focus groups of all likely stakeholders and identified potential users as university-based researchers; health and human service agencies; policy and planning organizations including foundations and civic agencies; and consumers of human services, their family members and advocates. Their research also determined categories of business questions important to community stakeholders as being: tracking consumers and aggregate demand for services; monitoring quality, cost and aggregate outcomes; agency management and planning; tracking linkages within and between service delivery systems; and consumer choice and advocacy. The advisory committee also explored data integrity and confidentiality; marketing, education and technical support for users; and oversight and governance of the DW.

By 2007, the Data Warehouse included case management type data from all program offices. In addition, DHS formalized information sharing agreements with the county and state corrections agencies, city and county housing authorities and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (including TANF, general assistance, food stamps, Medical Assistance, energy assistance, employment and training and child care support through Pa. DHS). With all of this information in a central repository, DHS has the ability to look across federal, state and county human service programs and properly analyze and react to emerging trends.


Project Results

  • The eCAPS operating system was moved into production in October of 2000 and the Data Warehouse was moved into production in May of 2001. 
  • Building on the data warehouse technology, DHS can now use Global Information Systems (GIS) mapping to evaluate consumer data and make better decisions. 
  • Using its Geographical Information System (GIS), DHS can examine the spatial relationships between clients, contracted service providers and the demographics of the geographic region in question. 
    Example:  Based on a GIS mapping of the locations of mental health consumers, DHS was able to better locate its Mental Health Drop-In Clinics within the County
  • The data warehouse and GIS mapping technology has proved to be a valuable community resource.
    Example:  When a school district wanted to get an idea of how many of their students were in the child welfare system, DHS was able to produce a GIS mapping to help answer the question.
  • The analytic tools used by DHS retrieve and display the DW data in several formats. 
  • The user can request aggregate unduplicated counts; client-specific, provider-specific or program specific reports and displays; and data by geographic location. 
  • Internally, staff can request a report indicating the number of DHS clients who are concurrently receiving services through a specific combination of program offices. This request can then be fine-tuned to reflect the specific records for the individuals identified in the broad search. 
  • DataVue went into production in 2006. This application enables staff to enter an individual’s name and retrieve all data about that person that is stored in the DW.
  • The DW has become a significant community resource as well, encouraging partnerships and research projects with RAND, the Center for Disease Control, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, the Funders in Criminal Justice and the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • In June of 2007, The DHS Office of Information Management (OIM) was honored on at the Computerworld Honors Award night for their design and implementation of the DHS Data Warehouse. The title of Laureate is awarded to “individuals, organizations and institutions around the world, whose visionary applications of information technology promote positive social, economic and educational change.” 
  • By December 2007, the Data Warehouse contained more than 15 million client records, received data from 24 independent operating applications, was supplemented with the US Census bureau data and was made capable of reporting data in “real time”— meaning, if required, the system could be refreshed on an as-needed basis.
  • The Data Warehouse serves as a community resource for a growing number of research projects initiated by the academic community, local government and local foundations.