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DHS Research and Reports - Innovation, Reform and Policy

pdf.gif Introducing Performance-Based Contracting: A Comparison of Implementation Models
October 2014
This report provides an overview of the design and implementation of Performance-Based Contracting with senior centers, child welfare placement agencies and providers serving offenders discharged from the Allegheny County Jail.

pdf.gif Common Assessment Tools: Implementation and Implications for Service Integration
Bruce Barron
July 2014

As the first introduction to a service system that might be confusing and frightening, the initial client assessment can play an important dual role: gathering information as well as engaging the client as a full participant in identifying appropriate supports and services. Creating a more effective communication and planning tool was the focus of the Department of Human Services when developing the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment (CANS). It was also the focus of subsequent assessment tools, including the Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA), the Family Advocacy and Support Tool (FAST) and the criminal justice risk assessment.

This report describes the process of adapting and/or developing these common assessments for use in Allegheny County, the implementation process, and the impact on consumer engagement and service delivery.

pdf.gif Case Competition 2013 
February 2014
Forty-seven graduate students from three local universities and nine programs of study participated in the seventh annual local government case competition sponsored by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and supported by the Human Services Integration Fund. Designed to engage graduate students from local universities in identifying creative solutions to difficult social problems, this year’s competition addressed the challenges of staffing a human services system that is increasingly data driven, integrated and community-based. Participants were instructed to design a three-year recruitment and retention plan, identifying one strategy to measurably improve on one of three key workforce characteristics (talent, diversity, commitment) for one of three target workforce segments (front line, support, leadership). Four winning teams were selected on the basis of presentation, content and scope. This report provides information about the competition, its history, and the key ideas generated by the participants.

Accompanying the report is a video that provides an overview of this year’s competition, the participating teams and the outcomes.

pdf.gif Managing with Less: Implementation of the Allegheny County Human Services Block Grant
Jeffery Fraser and Bill Schlachter
November 2013
In July of 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a FY 2012-2013 state budget that reduced allocations for human services by 10 percent while providing an opportunity for a select number of counties to participate in a new pilot program that bundled the reduced line items into a new Human Services Block Grant. The Block Grant offered greater flexibility in spending the reduced allocations than traditional categorical funding mechanisms allowed. Allegheny County was among 20 counties selected to participate in the pilot program.

This report describes the planning and preliminary implementation phases of the Human Services Block Grant in Allegheny County, including the innovative Call for Concepts that engaged providers and other stakeholders in identifying future priorities and opportunities for change in an effective, inclusive and transparent way.

pdf.gif 2012 Allegheny County DHS Local Government Case Competition:Addressing Suburban Poverty and Those Affected by It
Katie Meehan Arvay and Evelyn Whitehill
April 2013
Forty-six graduate students from three local universities and eight programs of study participated in the sixth annual competition sponsored by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and supported by the Human Services Integration Fund. Designed to engage graduate students from local universities in identifying creative solutions to difficult social problems, this year’s challenge was to respond to a Request for Proposals addressing the issue of suburban poverty and those affected by it. Participants were encouraged to address at least one of the following challenges faced by those living in poverty in the suburbs: isolation; limited ability to access services; lack of knowledge about resources; fragmented or disconnected service continuum; issues of stigma around poverty; and limited transportation options. Four winning teams were selected on the basis of presentation, content and scope. This report summarizes the winning presentations as well as the key ideas generated during the competition.

pdf.gif Natural Supports: A Scan of Current Use and Future Opportunities
Lindsay Légé, Betsy Swager, Evelyn Whitehill and Erin Dalton
January 2013.
Natural supports, known by a variety of names including informal supports, community supports and family supports, are personal relationships and associations that enhance quality of life and provide support and security during times of need. The use of natural supports, as well as strategies designed to increase natural support networks, is becoming more common in association with human services; DHS is committed to the inclusion and promotion of natural supports across its range of services. This report examines DHS’s current practice as well as opportunities for expansion.

pdf.gif Your Culture is Valued Here: Lessons from the DHS Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council
Bruce Barron
January 2013.
In 2007, in recognition of the need to ensure that its services are accessible and culturally competent to residents from other countries, DHS established an Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council, composed of immigrants/internationals from a wide range of countries and representatives of immigrant-serving initiatives throughout Allegheny County. Since that time, the Council has grown in representation and in scope, and has been responsible for a number of innovative efforts designed to give voice to recipient communities, build collaborations with existing community resources and support the creation of services to address unmet needs. The Council has been credited by key players in the local international community with making the region more immigrant-friendly on several fronts.

This report provides an historical perspective on the Council and a description of its accomplishments, featuring the stories of a number of Council members.

pdf.gif Allegheny County Department of Human Services Quality Improvement Activities: 2009–2011
Jean O’Connell Jenkins, Katie Meehan Arvay, Ebony Robinson, Evelyn Whitehill and Erin Dalton
November 2012  

The Department of Human Services (DHS) conducts a wide range of quality improvement (QI) activities designed to enhance the delivery of direct services in Allegheny County. While some offices have well-established quality assurance processes, in 2008 DHS created a dedicated QI Team within the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation, to augment those activities and to expand the process across DHS program offices. QI activities across DHS include: the Quality Service Review, an annual measure of the child welfare system’s practice model and associated standards; Qualitative Case Reviews, in which the team presents relevant administrative data associated with permanency outcomes in order to identify policy and practice themes and recommendations; the Child Fatality / Near Fatality Review Team, which meets whenever a child fatality or near fatality occurs under circumstances in which there is suspicion and/or substantiation of child abuse or neglect; the Emergency Response Meeting, which convenes each time there is a child death due to suspected abuse or neglect and/or when a child has been in the custody of CYF within the past 16 months; the Director’s Action Line, in place since 1996, which provides information, support, referrals and consultation in response to grievances, concerns and complaints reported by consumers, providers and/or staff; the Integrated Service Planning Process, which works to develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan for children whose extensive and complex needs require coordinated support from multiple systems; and the Multi-System Rapid Response Team, designed to creatively address ongoing systems issues facing children and youth with complex needs.

This report provides a three-year review of these key QI activities.

pdf.gif 2011 Allegheny County DHS Local Government Case Competition: Reducing Stigma among Individuals with Serious Mental Illness
Shannon Fairchild and Katie Meehan Arvay
Published July 2012.
For the fifth annual Local Government Case Competition, participants were asked to address the stigma associated with mental illness and to develop a plan to improve the experiences of individuals living with serious mental illness. Forty-three graduate students from three local universities and six fields of study were divided into eleven teams. Each team presented its ideas to a panel of judges (18 individuals on four panels) representing com-munity organizations, local universities, DHS staff members and winners from previous years; four teams were ultimately chosen as winners based on verbal presentation, content and scope. This report summarizes the winning presentations as well as the key ideas generated during the competition.

pdf.gif An examination of Allegheny County DHS service usage: Cross program/bureau service activity trends from 2005-2010
James D. Schlosser
Published 2012.

The service records of almost 3,000 DHS consumers, who received service from 2005/2006 through 2010, were studied in order to determine the frequency with which more than one DHS service was utilized. During this period of time, more than twelve percent of these consumers received services from two or more program offices. This report offers a broad informative view of consumers’ service activity between program offices and bureaus. Because a random sample was studied, this report offers insight into broader trends of cross-program/bureau service activity by DHS consumers. 

 pdf.gif Prevention Programs Across the DHS
Megan Good, Brian Bell, Ebony Robinson and Erin Dalton
Published August 2011.
Many DHS programs and services include a prevention component, and a persistent challenge for administrators is developing a comprehensive understanding of what they all are and how well they work. This report presents a framework for prevention in the human services field, classifies and catalogs the prevention efforts across DHS, and discusses key pieces of information that are important to understanding the evaluation status and priorities of each program or service. Next steps are formulated and presented based on DHS-wide trends and specific priorities for program evaluation.

 Transforming Lives Through Systems Integration 
Bruce Barron
Data current through 2010. Published 2011.
The Department of Human Services contracted with a writer, Bruce Barron, to document the “Improving Outcomes” Initiative. This first report summarizes the history of the principles that led to the development of the initiative and highlights how the impressive systemic changes the department has brought about can lead to unmistakable transformations in the lives of the children and families they serve.

pdf.gif Challenge and Change 1997-2010 - Transforming an administrative infrastructure to support program integration
Published February 2011.
This report details the transformational administrative and operational changes that have taken place within the Department of Human Services from our creation in 1997 to the present date. Included are strategies and methods employed to consolidate and streamline four cross-cutting basic administrative areas: Human Resources; Financial Management; Budgets and Contract Compliance; and Facility Management. It also describes the initial steps taken to merge information management with these administrative areas. All of the reforms highlighted in the report have been made to realize the goals of creating an effective, efficient and fiscally responsible administrative infrastructure to support our overarching vision of an exemplary human services system for Allegheny County residents.

pdf.gif Data Warehousing, Flow Models, and Public Policy 
Paper Presented at the 28th Annual APPAM Research Conference, November 2006, Madison, WI
Erin Dalton, Wilpen Gorr, Jennifer Lucas and John Pierce 
Data current through 2006. Published 2008.
The Department of Human Services is perhaps the first such organization in the country to build and use a data warehouse—a system that integrates data from several sources and makes it available for decision making. The purpose of this paper is to describe the context and need for integrated data in human services, describe data warehousing technology and its unique challenges in the public sector, describe some innovative data warehouse applications that have arisen in part from joint projects with universities, and discuss future work.

pdf.gif Greening DHS: The 2008 Local Government Case Competition
Erin Dalton, Dana Kunzman, Katie Meehan and Emily Sturman 
Published 2008.
In November 2008, DHS sponsored its second annual Local Government Case Competition, seeking ideas from students on how to embed environmental sustainability into DHS policies and operations. Competing teams worked to solve a real problem under simulated business conditions (e.g. time deadlines and incomplete information) to formulate workable, action-oriented recommendations.

pdf.gif The Future of DHS: The 2007 Local Government Case Competition
Randy Aussenberg, Erin Dalton and Dana Kunzman 
Published 2007.
In November 2007, DHS sponsored its inaugural Local Government Case Competition, seeking to apply the creativity and knowledge of local graduate students toward considering how DHS will look in the next 10 years. Competing teams worked to solve a real problem under simulated business conditions such as tight deadlines and incomplete information to formulate workable, action-oriented recommendations. Student teams presented their results to panels of community stakeholders and DHS staff on November 10, 2007.

pdf.gif Quality Improvement Assessment
Brian Bell, LaToya Warren, Jean O’Connell Jenkins and Erin Dalton 
Data current through 2008. Published 2010.
This report describes the more than 100 quality improvement activities and initiatives taking place throughout DHS and uses the Council on Accreditation’s (COA) Performance and Quality Improvement standards to frame the discussion of how DHS currently manages quality improvement. The report discusses best practice approaches and provides benchmarking information about what organizations similar to DHS are doing.

Annual Reports 

DHS Ten-year Report
Presents a retrospective of the first ten years of DHS from the point of view of persons who were intimately involved in the redesign process.

pdf.gif 2004
Identifies instances when the multi-system approach offered by our collaborative human services system succeeds at meeting the broad range of needs presented by many DHS clients. 
pdf.gif 2003
Examines the way DHS works in partnership with community organizations to meet the needs of county residents. 
pdf.gif 2002
Explores the ways DHS helps individuals become empowered to meet their life challenges. 
pdf.gif 2001
Reaching Out, Filling Gaps, Offering Support, Finding a Way, Opening Doors: Each vignette provides a glimpse of the ways DHS services change lives. Presents service use and fiscal annual statistics.    
pdf.gif 2000
Celebrates the successful redesign of the Allegheny County human services system. Recounts stories of individuals who benefitted from the services they received through DHS. Presents service use and fiscal annual statistics.   

Human Services Re-design 

pdf.gif Redesigning Human Service Delivery in Allegheny County - A Progress Report, February 1999

pdf.gif Redesigning Human Service Delivery in Allegheny County, January 1998