Cross-systems Programs

By 2006, Department of Human Services (DHS) had come a long way toward implementing a cross-systems approach throughout. Some excellent models were implemented early on that helped define the DHS philosophy. Programs like Community Connections for Families (CCF) and Family Group Decision-Making(PDF, 852KB) demonstrated the value of involving people receiving services and their families with representatives from a wide range of potential resources, in and outside of DHS. The pioneering Beverly Jewel Wall Lovelace Fund for Children’s Programs showed the value of public-private partnerships and the importance of allowing residents to identify their needs and the programs to address them. And by cooperating to help seniors find employment, transportation and energy assistance, the Area Agency on Aging and the Office of Community Services proved that collaboration added value to services of both offices and laid the groundwork for larger efforts like the Jail Collaborative.

With continued support from the Human Services Integration Fund(PDF, 207KB) (HSIF), DHS now boasts a nationally recognized human services system, a state-of-the-art accounting system and the Data Warehouse(PDF, 82KB) that sustains our integrated system. Multiple innovative initiatives benefiting our community have each positioned Allegheny County as a national model for human services. The forward thinking that characterized the Human Services Integration Fund committee is exemplified in initiatives that reduce the time children spend in temporary placement, provide the option of treatment rather than incarceration to lawbreakers with behavioral health concerns, reduce recidivism by focusing on the transition between incarceration and independence, and work to reduce crime and violence. Pilot programs that support children in after school programs, seniors in community centers and the disability community have developed into essential offerings that further the effectiveness of DHS.

Fortunately, at the same time that foundation funding allowed DHS to pursue these “out-of-the-box” service offerings in demonstration projects, a similar philosophy was taking hold at the state level. Then Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman, a strong advocate of collaboration among various sectors to meet the needs of children and families, directed counties to coordinate services and pledged to dismantle the regulatory and funding silos that discourage collaboration.

The DHS integrated planning process is a prime example of extending this model to bring together essential resources and creative thinkers to address the problems of young people from birth to 21 years who exhibit severe behavioral disorders in the presence of a mental health diagnosis, intellectual disability and/or developmental disabilities.

As this effort to streamline service delivery and reduce redundancies has taken hold in all of DHS service areas, the departmental newsletter, DHS News, used 2006 as an opportunity to showcase this forward-thinking philosophy in action with front-page articles that describe how program offices came together to achieve better outcomes for the people of Allegheny County. An overview of some cross-systems efforts is available upon request at DHS News.