California Counties to Share Social Services Network
- By Jill Rosen
- Feb 06, 2000
A consortium of California counties is investing $321 million in a network
system that they hope will improve the state's delivery of social services.
Electronic Data Systems Corp. announced recently that it will build
the CalWorks Information Network, or CalWIN, a system the company estimated
will handle 40 percent of California's social services caseload.
CalWIN, which goes into development this month, is intended to streamline
the delivery of services through the 18 counties it encompasses. The system
will affect more than a million people who are on Medicaid, receive food
stamps or get assistance from California's welfare-to-work program.
By replacing a 30-year-old system, CalWIN is supposed to ensure that
benefits are properly distributed. It also will make it faster for county
workers to determine whether people are eligible for benefits, and if so,
how much. A case management component will enable counties to measure the
effectiveness of various service programs.
"We'll be serving clients better, we'll be saving money and the workers
are going to like working with the new system instead of an out-of-date
architecture," said Sandra Erbs, consortium manager for CalWIN. "They are
all really significant benefits."
CalWIN will feature an open, component-based architecture. A cross-platform
client/server will involve personal computers, printers, servers, local-area
networks, wide-area networks, an intranet and the Internet.
The consortium and EDS will start in earnest in February to develop
the federally funded system, a process Erbs estimated will take about 14
months. Then there will be about 15 more months of extensive testing and
a pilot before the system is formally launched.
Erbs said the new system will not only modernize the inner workings
of the social services agencies but mkae dealing with the agencies easier
for clients. No longer will someone already being served by a mental health
agency go to welfare and have to start from scratch with basic questions.
Each agency will be able to tap into the others' basic information.
"With welfare reform, there is a real need for agencies to communicate
in order to move people from dependency to self-sufficiency," Erbs said.
"[With CalWIN] everything will be out of a central location, and that will
be much more efficient."