The year was 2005 and a new service called iTunes was transforming the music industry — even though the iPhone would not be invented until 2007. American Idol and CSI were among the top shows on television and Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith took the top spot at the box office. This was in the same year that the soon-to-be-retired information technology backbone of Human Services was launched — HSDOnline.
Imagine all the technological advances that have happened in the last two decades. We can perform banking, order groceries, pay for food delivery and even hail a ride all from a simple tap of the screen on our smartphones using wireless internet service and digital payments. We can query a powerful search engine and get millions of answers within fractions of a second. Through our smart TV, we can watch endless hours of content on YouTube, and Netflix and even play music from online streaming platforms — all without a cable subscription.
Like many other organizations, the Maricopa County Human Services Department (HSD) is making its own technological advances. With the dependence on data to make decisions and the overall transition to a digital, internet-based economy where people expect to conduct business 24/7 from their mobile devices, the time was right for HSD to upgrade its information technology system. The new system, called HSD Dynamics, is an integrated, modern platform helping to usher in a new era of capabilities and connectedness for both employees and the public.
HSD prioritizes comprehensive service delivery for our residents and HSD Dynamics has made a major impact in this area. To improve customer service, secure data, and build resiliency in the HSD’s digital footprint, the decentralized patchwork legacy information technology approach began to be phased out in March 2021 when the Community Services Division was the first to implement HSD Dynamics. The new system was used to address an unprecedented demand in the community for emergency rental and utility assistance. To put the words “unprecedented demand” into perspective, consider that in a typical year, HSD was providing approximately $5–6 million in rent and utility assistance. In response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has approved the use of three separate funding streams for rent and utility assistance totaling almost $120 million. Right around the time HSD Dynamics was implemented in Community Services, April 1, 2021, we began processing $41.6 million of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) 1.0. The system proved invaluable at capturing data and was implemented in the Workforce Development Division in December 2021. Over the course of the summer of 2022, HSD Dynamics will be rolled out for the remaining HSD Divisions.
Now that the new system has been in use for some Divisions, we asked staff to reflect on the impact HSD Dynamics is having on their work servicing the residents of Maricopa County.
Reflecting our Mission, Vision, and Values
Jacqueline Edwards, Director, Maricopa County Human Services Department
The old system lacked the modern quality-control measures built into modern platforms. For example, staff might enter data twice, leading not only to duplicate entries but also inefficiencies by using double the amount of staff time to perform the work, only to discover down the line, the duplication. The legacy system also promoted a siloed service model in that each HSD neighborhood’s programs and services would have separate data that was not connected to a central system. Not only was this inefficient, but it also made cross-division collaboration more difficult.
Replacing the legacy system with Dynamics is a way to inject HSD’s mission, vision, and values into the infrastructure that supports day-to-day operations.
Mission: An integrated system that shares data across functions allows for the delivery of equitable, inclusive, and comprehensive services for those experiencing adversity while offering more opportunities to engage and partner with individuals, families, and the community. The new system also builds resiliency and improves the financial, emotional, and technological well-being of people in Maricopa County.
Vision: Implementing Dynamics provides another opportunity for HSD to be the collective leader for human services systems change using evidence-based approaches to ensure all community members have opportunities to thrive.
Values: Building equity into systems is paramount for HSD. A centralized system for tracking, analyzing and reporting data promotes an innovative opportunity to deliver an impact-driven solution that promotes inclusivity and collaboration in our collective work to support social and economic mobility.
Implementation of Dynamics allows for a comprehensive, person-centered/whole family service delivery model across all HSD programs, including Head Start, Workforce Development, Rental & Utility Assistance, Senior & Adult Services as well as Weatherization services.
The process began in 2018 with a needs assessment and review of the available systems and costs. In 2019, HSD partnered with Microsoft to develop a pilot project using Microsoft Dynamics. After a successful proof of concept was developed, an RFP was issued in 2020. A vendor was selected to develop the system and in 2021, the system was implemented across HSD.
How Dynamics Benefits People
Shawn Pierce, Deputy Director, Maricopa County Human Services Department
Shawn Pierce, Deputy Director, Maricopa County Human Services Department
The capabilities of Dynamics will better facilitate cross-divisional service referrals so people who need additional services can benefit from wraparound support from HSD. For example, a person contacting HSD for assistance with rent and utilities may also realize benefits from Workforce Development services and Head Start. Our technology will be able to support our philosophy of addressing all of the needs and barriers someone may be facing so we can better support their sustainable, positive growth.
· Client Management functionality will centralize data, service history, and case notes to ensure continuity of services to people served by HSD.
· Centralized and standardized application processes will provide a streamlined and consistent experience for all applicants so eligibility is determined equitably and more efficiently with the ability to easily check the status and communicate with a case manager.
· Efficiency for staff is built-in with integrations for emailing, scheduling, and real-time data sharing.
· Data analysis is improved so reporting, dashboards, and quality control measures are performed holistically for more efficient decision-making on resources.
Reflections from Division Assistant Directors
“Dynamics is already easing the referrals between workforce development and the Community Action Program, which is co-located at many of our Workforce Development Coordinator sites. Now, Dynamics allows a participant to apply for both programs at the same time, and the program staff can share participant progress and timelines in Dynamics. Utilizing the shared Dynamics system makes it easier on staff and participants than our previous referral system. This new system positions us to better respond to the needs of job seekers and employers across Maricopa County.” — CJ Williams, Assistant Director, Maricopa County Workforce Development Division
“Dynamics offers a client portal where residents can apply for more than one program at a time through our universal application- saving time and frustration for people who may be experiencing a crisis. Internally, we have seen efficiencies in the business process flow for processing applications and requesting payments while leveraging an equity lens to ensure the data we collect is framed thoughtfully and supports inclusivity.” — Pam Olesen, Administrator, Maricopa County Human Services Administration Division
“To help our clients, we need to have a clear understanding of their situation to identify barriers so the accuracy and details of the information collected are crucial. Once we identify those needs, we work with HSD Divisions and our partner agencies to come up with a comprehensive, integrated action plan that reaches beyond any one Division or program. For example, a plan for someone reaching out for rental assistance can now include childcare, child support, mental health, nutritional assistance, medical assistance, transportation, education, and even employment services.” Cathy Chiang, Assistant Director, Maricopa County Human Services Community Services Division
HSD Dynamics in Action
HSD Dynamics is already making a significant impact on the ability of Maricopa County residents to access available services. Below is a look at how active the system has been since its inception.
· There have been 21,831 unique applications received across all programs.
· Of those applications, 9,952 were for more than one program, including rental and utility assistance
· $53,236,004 has been provided in Emergency Rental Assistance
· $9,176,500 has been provided in Utility Assistance
· HSD Dynamics contains 15,039 households with active client portal accounts
About Maricopa County Human Services
As the fourth largest county in the nation home to some of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, Maricopa County’s population is large, growing and more diverse than ever. Maricopa County’s Human Services Department has five divisions that provide services and programs to people of all ages and abilities to promote their well-being. From offering early education to career training and employment services to case management for aging and adults with disabilities — the Human Services Department serves as a leader in the region to support strong families, neighborhoods, and community relationships. Learn more about the financial, educational, and support resources available to eligible Maricopa County residents at www.HSD.maricopa.gov.