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Local DHHS leaders work toward better customer service

Staff report

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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services hosted a Work Support Strategies leadership summit for teams from local departments of social services April 22-23 in Raleigh.


During the two-day summit, teams collaborated to produce action plans and updated business processes to support the rollout of North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology (NC FAST) across the state.


The N.C. FAST system is an integrated case management tool designed to help county departments of social services to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time assisting families. Ashe County Director of Social Services Donna Weaver said the new system has already been put in place for EBT, and will next be applied to Medicaid and WorkFirst programs later this year.


“It’s a massive change,” Weaver said. “I think our county has done a good job implementing.”


Applicants for social services and their case workers will both be working with an improved social services system, she said. Instead of designated case workers for Medicaid or EBT applicants, there will now be “universal workers.”


“Applicants will only have to tell their story one time to the one (case worker) they see” Weaver said. Eligibility for any and all services will be determined simultaneously.


“It’s really going to be a great system,” she said.


As of March, all 100 counties were using the NC FAST tool for processing of food and nutrition services applications and re-certifications. Three counties — Chatham, Johnston and Orange — will begin to pilot the Medicaid phase of NC FAST in June, with all other counties to be phased in over the summer and actively using NC FAST for Medicaid, Work First, Special Assistance and Refugee Assistance by September.


“We are working with local DSS officials and their staff to improve communication and enhance customer service as we implement NC FAST across the state,” said DHHS Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos. “The Work Support Strategies grant supports the cultural business changes needed at both the state and local level to serve families as a whole.”


The Work Support Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families initiative provides states, with the opportunity to design, test and implement more efficient and effective approaches to delivering key supports for low-income working families.


North Carolina is one of six states to receive implementation grant funding through the Ford Foundation and its partners, the Urban Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


“The Work Support Strategies leadership summit offered counties a great opportunity to come together and share ideas on how we can better serve our clients,” said David Atkinson, Carteret County DSS Director. “Having all 100 counties registered for this planning opportunity demonstrates the tremendous commitment shared by both DHHS and local DSS office to change the way services are provided.”


For more information on the Work Support Strategies grant, visit www.ncwss.com. For more information about NC FAST go to www.ncdhhs.gov/ncfast.

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