Baltimore County Now
– Recognized for Streamlining Social Services Approvals Process
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that the County has won the prestigious “Bright Idea Award” from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government through their 2015 Innovation in American Government Program. The award praises the County’s Social Services Eligibility Determination Improvement project.
This project overhauled the County’s social services application and eligibility process for critical programs like food stamps, temporary cash assistance, medical assistance and temporary disability assistance.
The new process, developed in-house by the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with the Office of Information Technology (OIT), significantly improved the way requests are handled by shifting HHS case workers from handling individual caseloads to a more effective team-based caseload management system. The County now uses technology to replace a paper-based approval process, reducing backlogs and improving work quality, as well as providing for employee skill set development.
“I am very proud of our HHS and OIT Directors Branch and Stradling and their staffs for taking the initiative to use the latest technology to better meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable County residents,” said Kamenetz. “Now, our social services offices are much better equipped to meet the ever-increasing demand for assistance by providing superior customer service. This is the way government is supposed to work.”
The implementation of the project resulted in the following improvements:
- Average application completion times improved by 70% (from 7.8 days to 2.3 days); reapproval times improved by 65% (from 9.8 days to 3.4).
- Expected completion time of 96% dropped from 15.9 to 6.5 days for applications (57% improvement) and from 27.6 to 9.47 days for reapprovals (66% improvement)
About the Award
Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, John F. Kennedy School of Government's “Bright Idea Award” serves to highlight and promote creative government initiatives and partnerships so that government leaders, public servants, and other individuals can learn about noteworthy ideas and can adopt those initiatives that can work in their own communities.
“Finding innovative ways to meet the growing demand for our services is an ongoing challenge,” said Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “Successful implementation of this project is helping us to better serve our customers.”
Includes Expanded Homeless and Transitional Shelters
Dozens of homeless advocates and health service providers cheered this morning as Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz led a ceremonial groundbreaking to mark the official start of construction for a much needed replacement for the County’s Eastern Family Resource Center (EFRC).
The new $26 million, 80,000 square-foot, three-floor facility will replace the outdated Eastern Family Resource Center. Both are located on the campus of Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center. The new building is anticipated to open the spring of 2017.
“The reality is, the homeless among us are not simply strangers down on their luck—they are somebody’s father, somebody’s sister, somebody’s child,” said Kamenetz. “We must recognize them not as strangers, but as neighbors. And we must acknowledge the fact that, at any moment, things could fall apart in our own lives, and it could be us seeking shelter or living on the street.”
The County is funding $16 million of the cost of the new facility, with Medstar Health providing $5 million in support, along with a commitment of $5 million from the State of Maryland. The architect is Chris Parts of Hord-Coplan-Macht and the building contractor is CAM Construction.
Baltimore County and MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center negotiated a land swap whereby the land housing the current Eastern Family Resource Center will be incorporated into the hospital campus. MedStar gave the County a 3.9-acre parcel of property, about a block away from the current center, which is currently being used for hospital staff parking.
Expanded Shelter Operations
The current Eastern Family Resource Center houses a shelter for women and families, as well as an array of programs operated through the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services. The new facility will add two homeless shelters (men’s and transitional) and provide space for Healthcare for the Homeless.
“This facility will be so much more than mere brick and mortar to this community,” said Director of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “Some will call it home, while others will view it as a place to receive medical care. But we all will see it as a beacon of hope, health and healing.”
The new Eastern Family Resource Center will include three shelter operations, including an enhanced shelter for women and families, serving up to 250 persons; a transitional shelter program for women and families, with a capacity of up to 38 persons; and a new shelter for men, with a capacity of up to 50 persons. The expanded center supports the County’s 10-Year Plan to Prevent and Reduce Homelessness.
The women and family shelter will have separate sleeping spaces for single women and families, as well as sleeping spaces for men that utilize the shelter as part of a family and for single dads with their children. The shelter will include child care and child development space, as well as an outdoor play area for children. Programming will be enhanced as a result of space designed for workshops and educational activities. The shelter will also allow for enhanced program collaboration with the addition of flexible office space for partnering agencies.
For those families that require additional time to meet the goal of self-sufficiency, a third floor transitional shelter is included in the design. This shelter will house approximately 38 persons, with each family housed in a private sleeping room, with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities.
Expansion of Health Services
The new building will also allow the County to expand health services to persons who are homeless through its partnership with Health Care for the Homeless (HCH). Expanded space for HCH will allow them to increase the capacity and scope of services to homeless persons in Baltimore County, including expanded primary care, behavioral health and supportive services.
The new building will allow the Department of Health to meet the growing needs of the community in a space that is thoughtfully designed for enhanced program collaboration. The building will house multiple Health Department functions, including Family Planning, Dental Services, the Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program, Immunizations, Substance Abuse Treatment, a Sexually Transmitted Infections clinic and the Infants and Toddlers Program.
Westside Men’s Shelter Opened this July
This past July, the County Executive also opened a new 54-bed, $3.4 million shelter homeless shelter for men that incorporates functional amenities to better help residents receive the services they need and work toward independent living. The facility is operated and staffed by Community Assistance Network.
November is National Adoption Month
A courtroom isn’t usually a very happy place, but on Saturday, November 21, people in courtrooms around the country will be celebrating the adoption of children from the foster care system.
In Baltimore County, we are delighted to join in the celebration with six of our foster children getting “forever homes” by being adopted by their relatives or foster parents.
November has been dedicated as National Adoption Awareness Month for the past 19 years. The purpose is to let people know that public agencies, such as Baltimore County Department of Social Services, have children in foster care who need loving foster and adoptive families. Attention has been given to all types of foster children; those with special needs, teenagers, infants and sibling groups that all need a place to call home. As a result more and more people have come forward to become foster parents; however, there is more work to be done.
More Individuals and Families Needed
During National Adoption Awareness Month we want to make the Baltimore County community aware that we still need more individuals and families who are able to open their hearts and their homes to our County’s most vulnerable children by becoming foster parents. Whether it’s for a night, a year or forever, these children need foster parents to provide safety, stability and love.
Learn what it means to help change a child’s life by sharing yours. Become a foster parent. For more information, contact the Baltimore County Foster Parent Program at 410-853-3170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Darling, Supervisor
Dawn Pipesh and Susan Oberfeld, Foster Parent Program Recruiters
Baltimore County Department of Social Services