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DSS Continues to Implement Streamlining Recommendations

Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) Secretary Kristy Nichols today said that DSS is continuing to take steps to implement recommendations by the Commission on Streamlining Government designed to streamline the agency, produce cost savings and increase efficiencies.

"DSS has worked diligently over the last year and half to identify our core competencies and work to preserve the core services that our clients need most," said Nichols. "DSS must make strategic investments that have measurable outcomes as we work to fulfill our mission of keeping children safe, moving families toward self sufficiency and providing safe refuge during disasters."

The 10 recommendations from the Commission on Streamlining Government include measures to integrate, transfer, outsource, or eliminate certain DSS programs or services to maximize available federal and state funds and to cut unnecessary costs.

Recommendations and actions taken to date include:

Department of Children & Family Services should implement on average a 1:8 supervisor-employee report ratio.

Action: DSS is working to implement a management ratio of one supervisor to eight employees in line with national standards to produce cost savings. To achieve this ratio, DSS is proposing a reorganization of the entire agency. This includes a reorganization of support functions, field operations and programming into one agency versus the four agencies that currently exist within DSS. Through this new organizational and delivery model, regional and middle management, administrative and support staff will be downsized and functions and roles consolidated with a focus on service delivery at the client level. This will be supported by DSS modernization efforts to ensure technology tools assist in lowering the need for current supervision ratios. Both within the state office and field offices, DSS will be required to meet the 1:8 ratio with the exception of highly specialized positions and child welfare case management. Office consolidations, partnership with non profits and other community based organizations to create DSS storefronts, office closures and the development of regional service centers are planned to further the 1:8 ratio and overhaul of the DSS delivery system.

To achieve this ratio, the agency has already reorganized Human Resources and Information Technology. As a result, an assistant director position and a supervisor position in Human Resources was eliminated, as well as three units with supervisors in IT. DSS continues to examine and reorganize units in the Office of the Secretary, Office of Family Support, Office of Community Services and Louisiana Rehabilitation Services using natural attrition, separations and vacant positions to achieve additional flattening. This will enable the reduction of the DSS footprint across the state as well as the elimination of management layers that do not add value and hinder the elevation of issues to executive management resulting in reduced responsiveness to stakeholders/clients.

This reform is expected to save around $876,301 state general fund dollars.

Will develop plans to further integrate services of the Department of Children & Family Services and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, especially those services where shared clientele is realized.

Action: In September, DSS launched the Connections to Work pilot program in the Lafayette area in partnership with the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). Through the pilot, DSS shares information and refers clients in need of job readiness and placement to LWC. This pilot program has allowed both agencies to identify more efficient and effective means of assisting clients to prepare for and enter the workforce. As of December 30, a total of 55 DSS clients have been referred, with 18 of those finding employment. DSS and LWC will be expanding the pilot to seven parishes in Acadiana beginning February 1 to include a mix of rural and urban parishes. The agencies will use the pilot to develop a statewide model that will place people who need to work in demand jobs and on a path to financial independence.

Will transfer Independent Living, Community & Family Support, and Traumatic Head and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund programs from the Department of Social Services, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services to the Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Aging and Adult Services.

Action: DSS will transfer the Traumatic Head and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund and the Louisiana Commission for the Deaf to DHH for the beginning of Fiscal Year 2011. The Community and Family Support initiative will actually transfer to DHH in the spring of 2010. DSS is currently negotiating the transition of the Independent Living program to LWC or DHH based on federal guidelines and core competencies of these departments.

Will transfer appropriate rehabilitation service functions in the Department of Children & Family Services to the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

Action: DSS will transfer the appropriate rehabilitation service functions from DSS to DHH and the Louisiana Workforce Commission at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2011. A transition team is in place and all agencies are working to achieve the recommendation and improve outcomes for clients.

This reform is projected to save more than $250,000 in state general fund dollars.

Will perform a system-wide analysis of behavioral health needs of high risk children within the child welfare and Office of Juvenile Justice systems to maximize the use of Medicaid funding. Such analysis shall be performed in-house by state employees.

Office of Juvenile Justice will partner with the Department of Children & Family Services and other stakeholders to better implement the Families in Need of Services Program with a goal of preventing youth from entering the costly juvenile justice system.

Action: DSS, OJJ, DHH and the Department of Education leadership have undertaken a cross-departmental effort to develop a coordinated system of care (CSoC) for children and youth with behavioral health disorders that are at risk for or currently involved with the DSS and/or OJJ systems. The CSoC is an evidence-based model that is part of a national movement to develop family driven and youth guided care, keep children at home, in school, and out of the child welfare and juvenile justice system. The CSOC model facilitates the development of a system that delivers services that are well-coordinated, culturally competent, child and youth guided, family-driven and community-based. An important CSoC goal is the reduction of highly restrictive out of home placements through the creation and maintenance of coordinated and effective community based service. Incorporation of the FINS target population and a redesign of referral and case management and service delivery to these families will be a key component of the new CSoC. Departmental leadership has a dedicated project manager, is working with expert consultants in system of care programming and financing strategies and has engaged community stakeholder in the system design process. A high level report presenting the target population, projected outcomes and potential models will be presented to the Streamlining Commission and Legislature by the end of February, and a detailed program design and financing mechanisms, including possible waiver applications or state plan amendments will be presented for public comment in the fall. Implementation is targeted for FY 2012.

Department of Children & Family Services worked with Department of Revenue on tax support program to identify savings.

Action: DSS has eliminated Earned Income Tax Credit technical support program for FY 2011 and is working with the Department of Revenue to transition appropriate services for tax preparation to their agency.

This reform will free up $1.2 million in federal funds to support core agency services.

Governor's Office on Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) will work with Louisiana's congressional delegation to identify and utilize federal funding for establishing additional shelter-capacity in-state for Louisiana residents who cannot self evacuate and shelter during emergency periods.

Action: GOHSEP is working with the Louisiana congressional delegation, FEMA, local officials, DSS and American Red Cross (ARC) to develop an implementation plan. Louisiana's congressional delegation is working with state and federal officials to obtain authorization for the use of Stafford Act hazard mitigation grant funding to secure additional sheltering capacity in-state.

This reform will give DSS the ability to redirect federal funding to increase shelter space for displaced citizens in times of emergency.

Consolidate eligibility and enrollment functions for citizens needing services or support from Department of Social Services or Department of Health and Hospitals at no additional cost.

Action: In late 2009, DHH began automatically enrolling in Medicaid any child under 19 who is newly applying for and enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by DSS. This initiative will expedite the access of children to health care without requiring the family to submit duplicative information to the Medicaid agency. In 2010, DHH will implement Express Lane Eligibility renewals for children with an active SNAP case. This will further automate the process, using DSS eligibility files for information on active SNAP cases, resulting in increased efficiencies to be gained and less time required on each annual renewal. Additional efforts include collaboration with community partners that can assist citizens with eligibility across both departments, cross-training of DSS and DHH eligibility staff, and co-location of satellite offices for the provision of services where appropriate. Our goal is a virtual consolidation of eligibility efforts across departments, using technology that is seamless to the client.

Move department of Social Services printing and mail operations to private company.

Action: DOA is scheduling a meeting with DSS and a provider to examine the feasibility of outsourcing DSS and other state agencies' printing and mail operations in order to produce cost savings.