County Council HHSA Committee hears testimony on topics of Child Support and an update from Board of Developmental Disabilities

The Cuyahoga County Council Health and Human Services and Aging (HHSA) committee heard testimony on two very important issues at the November 1, 2017, meeting.

The Office of Child Support Services testified first, with Director Deborah Watkins requesting an approval of a $660,245 contract with Hyland Software.  The contract would allow the agency to continue working with Hyland Software to enter information into an electronic tracking system, called OnBase, to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.  Director Watkins first provided a general overview of the office, explaining the specific need for funding to transition to an electronic tracking system.  Currently, the office handles 200,000 documents on an annual basis, approximately 770 documents daily, received via paper. She provided an example of the existing inefficiency. Currently, her staff conducts 8,000-10,000 investigations annually to examine if child support payments should be terminated, which is typically when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. The agency employees have to manually place the files on a shelf; case workers then wait 30 days for any appeals that may come. If no appeals come in, the papers are pulled off the shelf and the investigation is closed. With an automated system, the agency would be able to electronically check the child support status, thus streamlining the process and improving management. Such easy tracking can improve the customer experience and increase positive outcomes for families, as well as generate a wide variety of reporting data and metrics. Matt Bender, web applications manager for Cuyahoga County, testified about how the electronic system data can be easily transferred to the overall Cuyahoga County Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, which is scheduled to be fully operational by 2019.

Councilmembers asked a number of questions. Councilman Tuma asked what, if any, communication and collaboration is taking place with the court system.  Director Watkins said that the courts have already transitioned to electronic case management, so they are in frequent conversation on how to ensure that the new system will work in conjunction with the courts. Councilwoman Brown was curious how the new case management system will work in collaboration with the new countywide ERP system.  Mr. Bender explained that there are four different OnBase systems being used across various departments in the county and that the plan is to integrate the data into a large-scale system if there is coordination with the court system. He confirmed that the courts are transferring to electronic case management.

Councilwoman Baker asked for confirmation that the child support office is working with the IT team setting up the ERP system, to which the presenters responded that they are. There is $238 million owed in child support in Cuyahoga County, and about $150 million was paid on time in the month that it was due. Councilman Miller asked if that is a normal collection amount. According to Director Watkins, a 63 percent collection rate is very good for a county of Cuyahoga County’s size, but that it is important that the IT teams work together throughout the process, because the County wants to improve collection rates for Cuyahoga County families.

The new contract was approved by the committee and recommended to the full council under second reading suspension.

Next up was Kelly Petty, superintendent and CEO of the Cuyahoga County Department of Developmental Disabilities (DD), who provided a presentation about the impact of the Medicaid waiver match to the current allotment of county HHS levy funding that is used by the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.  A few months ago, the Board of Developmental Disabilities briefed the committee about a mandated change from the federal government that the Board could not be an administrator and service provider at the same time. By 2020, the Board will have fully outsourced service delivery to the private sector.  In so doing, the Board will reduce staffing levels from 1,150 in 2013, down to 900 in 2017, and then to about 500 by 2020.  It is going to be the goal of the Board of DD to maintain service quality to taxpayers, as well to do as much as possible to connect current county workers to opportunities in the private sector, once the transition is complete.

Councilman Miller lauded Superintendent Petty for her presentation, as well as the presentation of their strategic plan, calling it “what a strategic plan should be.” He asked, “What if I were to put myself or son/daughter on the list for a waiver? What is the current wait?” Superintendent Petty explained that it really depends on the application.  With that, the presentation was concluded.

The meeting closed with brief remarks from Councilman Miller, informing his colleagues that “as a part of the budget process,” there is an $11 million difference between what has been proposed by the Budish Administration and what the juvenile judges are asking for. He went on to explain that two-thirds to three-fourths of that difference is HHS levy funds, which the court says is necessary for operations and affects the services of the court, providing therapeutic treatment versus incarceration.  He said that this is a significant issue that must be worked out.  This is a topic to watch in budget deliberations in the coming weeks.

The committee then adjourned.