By David Liebler.
There’s a perception that government is inefficient, that a seemingly endless bureaucracy creates wasteful spending. Those with that opinion obviously haven’t stopped by the Ventura County Government Center, where a collaborative project among departments is resulting in more efficient and effective services for area residents at a time of increased demand.
This collaboration between the County’s Health Services Agency, General Services Agency and IT Services Department resulted in the development of a digitized mail system for mail headed to Health Services. The bottom line is quicker and more efficient services.
The old system worked, but was time-consuming and pulled staff away from their primary jobs. It often took 2-3 days from the time mail arrived at the mail center before making its way into the hands of the eligibility workers. And then the real work began. With the hard copies in hand, HSA workers would spend an estimated 16,000 hours annually scanning documents.
There had to be a better way, especially with demand for human services doubling over the past decade. And there was. Now the physical mail no longer leaves the General Services facility. The contents of each envelope are fed into a high-speed scanner and placed into a specialized data base that any eligibility worker has access to. What used to take days, now takes hours – which translates into quicker same-day services for clients. General Services staff has become so efficient using the new system, they often can scan in more than 500,000 images a month.
More importantly, Human Services Agency workers now can devote more time into helping local residents. Remember that 16,000 hours they used to spend on the mail? Now they spend that time on Ventura County clients. This helped enormously during the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The County estimates that the value of this redirected labor is about $2 million annually.
County staff is quick to point out that the new digitized system would never have become a reality without the three different departments working together. “When departments actually take the time to sit down across from each other … good things happen,” explains Chris Hackleman, Ventura County General Services Agency’s Manager of Support Services. “There are opportunities all the time to collaborate.”
And this form of collaboration is just beginning. Ventura County General Services is already exploring additional customer-based agencies that could benefit from this new capability.