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Crow Wing County pilot program focuses on highest users of social services

The Crow Wing County Board has approved a pilot project designed to more effectively coordinate social service programs.

Mark Liedl, interim director of the county’s community services department stated the pilot will focus on individuals and families who receive the highest annual benefits in cash assistance and other benefits designed to help them achieve greater self-sufficiency.

“We can and must do a better job helping our customers overcome barriers that foster dependency on government assistance, Liedl said in a news release. “It is the right thing to do to genuinely help people and more efficiently manage taxpayer dollars.”

Currently, the county delivers services to residents via a variety of federal and state programs that are segregated according to the particular program type. For example, cash assistance programs such as food assistance are administered in one unit of the community service department, while other programs and services such as medical assistance, employment, chemical dependency, child support, mental health, and child protection services are delivered by other units and employees within those separate units.

This structure of segregated services can result in multiple units providing various benefits to a family or individual without each unit knowing of the other’s efforts. And clients often must often coordinate with multiple staff in different departmental units rather than a single point of contact addressing what often are multiple barriers to self-sufficiency.

“In reality, those who utilize social services the most often have multiple barriers that need to be tackled,” Liedl said. “No one is well-served by a system that issues benefits in an uncoordinated way. It is expensive and ineffective. If we really want to help people, the right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing.”

The pilot project initiated by the county board, will coordinate case management services through a team approach the county describes as coordinated case management.

Coordinated case management (CCM) starts with an assessment of the customer’s needs, followed by a review of what services are currently being used and those that are needed. After this initial assessment an interview is completed with the customer and the CCM team. The CCM team is comprised of different departments of community services and a number of community partners. The team members, along with the customer, work in collaboration to identify needed services (housing, employment, health, transportation) and determine which team members would be most appropriate to provide those services. The customer, and each team member, is provided a document which communicates the plan and an estimated time line for completion. The CCM coordinator follows up with the customer to assure that he or she is engaged in the program and is following the mutually agreed upon plan.

“This process provides clarity of roles, minimizes or eliminates duplication of services, and assures important needs are being met,” said Gwen Anderson, who is managing the pilot program for the department. Anderson previously coordinated the county’s release advance planning (RAP) program, which provides a similar approach of coordinated services to help jail inmates be successful after they are released so they do not return to jail.

“We know this process works from the success we’ve seen in the RAP program. Of the customers who have gone through the RAP program, 80 percent have not returned to jail. This is a success in terms of quality of life for our customers and their families, elimination of cost for a jail stay (which is estimated at $55 per day per inmate) and multiple benefits to our community.”

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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