Second year in a row; small margin for error
By Katherine Nettles
The Gunnison County Health and Human Services (HHS) Department was recognized with a 2018 Distinguished Performance Award for the second consecutive year on June 18, based on its high success rates for cases within Gunnison and Hinsdale counties.
According to the state’s measurements, the HHS department achieved a 95 percent—and sometimes higher—success rate in handling its health and human services cases. Gunnison County HHS director Joni Reynolds says factors such as the timeliness, accuracy and effectiveness with which applications are processed, assessments are completed or contact is made on various types of cases are used to determine the success rate, assessed by the State Department of Human Services (CDHS).
CDHS implemented the C-STAT system, a performance-based analysis strategy, several years ago to assist health and human services programs in focusing on and improving performance outcomes, according to the state website. CDHS determines what is working and what needs improvement by measuring the impact of day-to-day efforts.
These assessments are made on several programs to determine success rates. Those programs include: Economic Security Programs (Food and Medical Assistance), Temporary Aid for Needy Families, Child Support Services, Senior/Adult Protection Services and Child Welfare Services.
CDHS reports the data monthly to counties to provide a “snapshot” of how the county is doing compared to the state’s established timeframes and standards. The reports also provide a comparison for the county over the prior 12 months to track its own trajectory over time.
The 95 percent success rate is an especially poignant achievement for Gunnison County HHS, given the small number of cases used in tracking data. There are often only a couple of cases processed each month, which both the state recognized and Reynolds explains further: “The success rate standards are typically above 95 percent. So, the goals are set high and with the small numbers in the counties it is more of a pass/fail rather than did we meet the 95 percent goal,” says Reynolds.
When there are only a few cases, there is little to no margin for failing to meet a standard under these criteria. “If we only have two cases and one meets the standard but the other doesn’t, there is no way we can meet the 95 percent goal … In large metro counties they have a much higher number of cases and are able to miss the goal with some cases and still meet the overall 95 percent goal,” Reynolds points out.
The Gunnison County HHS has three main departments: the Economic Security team, the Child Support Services team, and the Adult Protection Services and Child Welfare team.
The HHS leadership teams “have daily challenges but all have consistently excelled for the past year, earning them the State C-STAT Distinguished Service Award for their exemplary performance,” read commissioner Roland Mason as he presented the group with the award plaque on June 18.
Brad Wheaton manages the Economic Security team, which is the largest according to Reynolds, “because they process so much of the financials, the medical and the food… Medicaid or child health plans are most of the claims they get, and medical care is the highest percentage.”
Wheaton was recognized in the award document as “a consistent leader who provides hands on support for his team and sets the goals to assure the team is meeting/exceeding the State goals and ultimately meeting the needs of the people in our community. Brad and his team are the face of the County that meet[s] with individuals who are often in very difficult financial situations and need food, medical or financial assistance desperately. Brad and his team work diligently to assure the team consistently follows the many program requirements/guidelines while providing timely service to the families in a caring manner.”
Betsy Holena, manager of the Adult Protection Services (APS) team, was recognized for her work “assuring seniors in our community are safe and not experiencing abuse, neglect or financial exploitation.” Holena and the APS team were acknowledged for their ability to “complete investigations swiftly to assess for safety and work with the family and other community professionals to develop a plan to maintain at-risk adults in a safe and appropriate home/setting. This work is challenging as it involves vulnerable adults/seniors and families and can often be complicated involving medical, social or mental health issues. Betsy and her team are steadfast in assuring their clients are safe and provide the best care and support for all the individuals involved.”
Marilyn Cheever manages the Child Welfare team, who “work to assure children are safe in the community and not experiencing abuse or neglect,” according to the document. “The Child Welfare team works to quickly complete investigations and assess for safety and home situations. The Child Welfare team works with the family, law enforcement and other community professionals to develop a plan to maintain affected children in a safe and appropriate home. This work is challenging as it involves children and families and can often be complicated with social and mental health issues. Again, Marilyn and her team are diligent in assuring children are safe and do not experience future abuse or neglect.”
Reynolds said the departments of security and eligibility in public assistance have really progressed, particularly in the last few years, with the way they process applications. “It used to be more compartmentalized,” she says. “In the last two years that team has really coordinated so they work as one team to process all the applications, so when you call for assistance, anyone on that team can really help get you information on your case and answer your questions. There’s always someone scheduled to be available for answering phone calls,” she says, since it used to be that calls went straight through to a voicemail system. Anyone who has gotten lost in a teleprompt system can appreciate that.
“That has been one of my initiatives since I have been here, to work as a team so we don’t have islands of knowledge, depending too heavily on any one person on the team,” says Reynolds. She has served as the Gunnison County HHS director for five years.
Last, Reynolds says the C-STAT award is made to only the top 12 counties in the state. “As Roland [Mason] mentioned, the goals are challenging in some areas as the expectation is 95 percent but the numbers for some areas are low and allow no room for error on the part of the team. The team really focuses on the needs of the community and addressing the needs and managing the timelines and standards are consistent with the customer service focus,” Reynolds says.
In addition to 2018 and 2017, Gunnison County HHS also received the C-STAT award in 2015.