System eases counselor workload

Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities

A new Microsoft Corp. Windows-based system is helping New York state job

counselors work more efficiently.

Since July 2000, the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for

Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) has been converting its 15 state offices

to a case-management system that provides counselors, supervisors and support

staff with instant access to information about clients.

The office, a division of the state Education Department, assesses the

skill and education levels of individuals with emotional, physical and mental

disabilities and then devises a program for them for vocational training

and eventually employment. The office has about 350 counselors and other

staff members and serves more than 100,000 people a year.

The case-management system can be accessed through the Internet, a browser-based

intranet and a wide-area/local-area network connection and has a 128-bit

encryption for security.

It enables counselors to determine an individual's eligibility, plan

and authorize services, process forms and letters, and track and monitor

cases — all faster and easier than before, said Ronald Calhoun, the office's

coordinator for quality assurance and administrative services.

The system assures more consistency in meeting federal and state requirements

and has automated checks to ensure that all necessary information is included

with each case, he said.

The old system was "very labor intensive and very paper intensive" as

all vouchers and other forms had to be processed manually, Calhoun said.

The new system enables counselors to manage and control their entire caseload.

But the most important benefit has been expediting cases for VESID's clients

— people who are looking for jobs and becoming economically self-sufficient,

he said.

The office decided to automate the system about five years ago. Officials

first analyzed business processes, which involved incorporating state and

federal eligibility, and then built the system. Montreal-based CGI, an information

technology services firm, won a three-year, $5 million contract to develop

and install it.

Matt Nicol, CGI's vice president of government IT services, said the

biggest challenge in implementing the system has been cultural. He said

state employees, accustomed to a particular system, can't instantly gravitate

to a new one. He said CGI and VESID officials took the time to equip and

train all employees so they would buy in to the system. "We couldn't afford

a hiccup," he said.

So far, seven of the 15 offices are on the new system. Officials expect

full implementation by May 2002.

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