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Right now

Human services programs are large and complicated. Programs don’t always work together, and they receive funding through different sources. Laws and rules also change at the federal, state and local levels. This leads to many different ways of serving people, which means that they don’t know what to expect. It also makes it hard for people to learn about all of the options, and make informed decisions about what is best for them. Interacting with human services can be difficult and often requires a lot of time, perseverance, attention and advocacy; agencies frequently hear from communities that it could be easier, and that there are many opportunities to improve the experience. 

Currently, people find information about human services programs in many different places, depending on where they are and what they need. When someone begins their experience by accessing a particular program, their experience can be limited by what’s available within the program or what’s known by staff within that program.

Minnesota has state-supervised, locally-administered human services delivery, meaning many programs and services are delivered locally, which gives counties and tribal nations some flexibility in how they serve their communities. This flexibility can be positive, but it also leads to differences in how services are delivered in one community compared to another, which adds to the complexity and inconsistency that people can experience. There are also big differences in administration of different programs and services, which adds to the inconsistency people see across different interactions. Some programs offer online or self-service options, but many don’t, and the information available online and in person can be inconsistent. Forms, policy and process are complex and often focus on fitting people to programs, rather than the other way around.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has complex technology solutions connecting services to more than one million people in the state. More than 30,000 county, tribal nation, and state staff and 200,000 providers use these IT systems to deliver services. Some of largest and most important computer systems don’t communicate with each other. This makes it difficult to see and share information. People have to share the same information over and over to different staff and IT systems, even though they seem like they should be connected. Staff must repeat processes and spend a lot of time on data entry and searching for information. There are not a lot of online self-service options where people can enter their own information directly.


The vision

We will work together to redesign human services, creating an experience that is easy to navigate,  uses the technology people are used to using in their daily lives, and meets them where they are. This vision, which we call “integrated service delivery,” requires a major change from how things work today.

The vision includes giving individuals and families the power to focus on personal goals, helping them prioritize and address immediate needs, and providing information about possible root causes for them to consider, as well as possible programs and services that might be a fit. We envision that programs and services will be coordinated across the community, county, tribal nation, and state. People will be able to choose supports and services that fit their lives, wants, needs, and goals. 

The vision is that no matter where or how people begin to explore human services, they will be able to learn about and access the breadth of programs and services available. This should be the same whether the individual or family is talking to staff face to face or over the phone or internet, or using an electronic device, such as a computer, a kiosk or device that’s not their personal computer, a cell phone or another device. This also means using dynamic or “smart” forms, applications and processes to save time and drive efficiency. Interactions between people and how they arrange and receive services are on a spectrum, from low-touch, or mostly self-service online, to high-touch direct assistance from staff.

We are setting goals around measurement and continuous improvement, using data in new ways, combining population and individual data. The goal that guides the vision for data in the model is to answer the question “are people better off?” 

Integrated technology systems will provide a shared workspace and online account. Staff across the state will be able to spend less time doing data entry and workarounds for aged, flawed or unconnected systems. Instead they’ll be able to focus on more strategic, proactive work. 

People will have the option to use an online account, where their information will be stored and organized, though they will also still have other options, such as telephone and in-person. Any option will allow the same pathways to service. In addition to better IT systems and improving service delivery, the alignment and simplification of programs and policies is an important part of the vision.

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