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Advancing Integration

Read the answers given by Marc Cherna, Patricia L. Valentine and Walter Smith from the December 2012 Q&A session concerning the continuing evolution of DHS. 

In January 1997, in response to a ComPac 21 recommendation that called for a restructuring of county government, Marc Cherna was appointed to head the newly created Department of Human Services. DHS embraced a community-developed vision for meeting the human service needs of county residents – one that challenged the Department to create an integrated human service system. Since then, integration has occurred structurally - by consolidating the functions of administration, communications, data analysis, evaluation and research while programmatically, the Department has advanced through the creation of a number of nationally-recognized collaborative strategies designed to creatively and effectively meet the needs of Allegheny County residents. 

In 2011, as the next step in DHS’s vision of full integration, Patricia L. Valentine was appointed to oversee all service offerings and to further program integration. After a year of assessment and preliminary planning, and with the involvement and endorsement of 50 senior managers, a universal DHS Practice Model was defined in late 2012. Implicit in this model are long-term goals in the following five areas:

  • Common practices
  • Community relations and participant engagement
  • Financial and operational efficiency
  • Quality assurance
  • Structural integration

Meetings with senior management will continue quarterly and will serve to inform the implementation of these goals and translate them into actionable objectives. 

An initial focus is the adoption of common practices and models of service across all program areas. While some adaptations may need to occur to meet regulatory requirements in specific service areas, the fundamental strategy, structure and use of DHS practices is designed to be uniform and standard. These practices, guided by the principles, values and overarching purpose of the DHS Practice Model, initially include:

This next phase of integration, supported by new opportunities emerging at the state and federal level (e.g., Block Grant and Child Welfare Demonstration Project), will require more comprehensive and consistent planning, policies/procedures development, contract monitoring and personnel training.