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Social Workers "Untethered"

Child protection workers have "untethered" themselves from their desks, using a new wireless case management system to improve service and efficiency.


August 9, 2007

On August 9, Mecklenburg County child protection workers celebrated their "untethering" from their desks, using new technology to protect the public and save taxpayer dollars. It's the launch of the child welfare component of the integrated case management system, bringing all Department of Social Services (DSS) information under one roof, available remotely via restricted access from any computer with an Internet connection. The celebration included the ceremonial lauch, or "untethering," of a hot air balloon near DSS' Kuralt Centre. View a slideshow here.

On August 9, child protection workers celebrated their "untethering" from their desks, using new technology to protect the public and save taxpayer dollars. It's the launch of the child welfare component of the integrated case management system, bringing all (DSS) information under one roof, available remotely via restricted access from any computer with an Internet connection. The celebration included the ceremonial lauch, or "untethering," of a hot air balloon near DSS' Kuralt Centre.

When a Mecklenburg County resident makes a call for assistance - to report a child in danger or a senior citizen who's going hungry - social workers used to be tied to their desks. Background information, history, addresses, forms, etc. were available only at the DSS office, forcing the social worker to spend valuable time and energy checking in and out. The new technology allows those same social workers to perform their tasks completely remotely - "untethered" from their desks.

It's called the Integrated Social Services Information system, or ISSI. Information about clients and the services they receive is easily and confidentially shared among the various divisions of DSS, improving coordination, making access more convenient for DSS clients, and saving time for DSS staff.

"This software will increase our agility, mobility and productivity while enhancing our ability to serve customers in their homes and community," said Richard "Jake" W. Jacobsen, Director of the Department of Social Services. "We are extremely excited about our child welfare ISSI system."

As of August 6, the child welfare component is online, marking the day that all areas of DSS are using the same system. This phase also allows workers to access the system remotely, either from home or from laptops in their cars. By providing this remote connectivity, DSS will save taxpayer dollars in a variety of ways:
- Social workers who travel throughout Mecklenburg County will save more than an hour a day if they don't have to travel to County office buildings.
- Reduce traffic congestion and air pollution by eliminating trips to County office buildings.

The system allows social workers to spend more of their time performing social work for Mecklenburg County children and less time performing documentation and paperwork related to the case. Currently, more than 1,000 DSS workers utilize ISSI.

ISSI allows staff to input customer and case information, manage their caseloads, coordinate services with other units, and generate forms, letters, and reports. There are many time saving, and safety features built into ISSI. For example, there is a stop sign that appears if there are dangers associated with a case.

Jerry Pinkard, Director of Mecklenburg Information Services and Technology, calls ISSI a user-friendly, sophisticated and feature rich system. "It was designed, developed, tested and implemented with heavy involvement by staff that actually uses the system," said Pinkard. Pinkard recently unveiled ISSI to a leading national human services software vendor, who categorized the system as head and shoulders above anything they have seen. "Hearing this from such an expert in the field is such a compliment to DSS and the IST staff. I'm very proud of their work."

The child welfare component of ISSI was developed jointly by Information Services and Technology staff from Mecklenburg and Buncombe Counties, who utilized web-conferencing technology to exchange data and ideas. The system cost about $2.4 million to develop. The return on investment is predicted at about $1.3 million per year. The system is anticipated to be in use for at least ten years, possibly much longer.

The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services is headquartered at 301 Billingsley Road in Charlotte. It has three major divisions:

Economic Services Division provides : Work First Family Assistance, Family and Children's Medicaid, NC Health Choice, Food Stamps, Refugee Assistance, Low Income Energy Assistance, and Employment Services.

Services For Adults provides :  Adult Protective Services, Representative Payee and Guardianship Services, Transportation, Congregate and Home-delivered meals, In-Home Aide Services, Community Social Work, Adult Medicaid, Adult Day Care, Adult Care Home monitoring, State County Special Assistance, Food Stamps and Just1Call.

Youth and Family Services provides :  Child Protective Services, Foster Care, Adoption and Adoption Assistance and Independent Living Services.




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