June 17, 2011 By Andy Opsahl
Public Safety, Emergency Managementand Corrections
Montgomery County, Md.
DC judges showed special interest in whether or not local governments deployed integrated justice systems. Judges wanted to see projects that gave approved users across agencies access to records through a single entrance point. The Integrated Justice Information System (IJIS) in Montgomery County, Md., integrates data from multiple law enforcement and criminal justice data sources, enabling personnel to retrieve information they need for investigations and processing via one system. The project was directed by a steering committee of representatives from the Montgomery County Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, Department of Corrections, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Montgomery County Circuit Court, the county’s health and human services agency and the county’s Department of Technology Services. IJIS gives employees from each of these agencies access to data collected by other agencies in the group, assuming the employee in question has clearance to view the data. In the past, workers often filled out paper forms to request the data. And if an employee was only permitted to view certain parts of the data requested, the entire request often was denied, said Lisa Henderson, program manager for Montgomery County.
“We kept security close to the vest,” Henderson remarked.
The old process forced employees to eat up time making phone calls trying to get access to the data they needed. The new system solves that problem with an automated, role-based access mechanism.
“It can get pretty granular in terms of the access I can allow,” Henderson said. “I may want a person to see an entire page, or I may only want them to see a portion of a report. It depends on the needs of both the individual and the agency.”
One IJIS module that recently became operational is the State’s Attorney’s Office case management system, which meets new legislative mandates and dramatically increases productivity for that office. Instead of accessing multiple databases, employees in that office receive their full workloads in a single package after signing onto the module. The IJIS system was one part of a strategic IT plan that included a Public Safety System Modernization Plan, a Communication Interoperability Plan, a Computer Aided Dispatch Road Map and a Public Safety Enterprise Architecture that are documented with the first three official papers published on the Montgomery County portal under the Public Safety Enterprise Strategies link.
Henderson said projects like IJIS are complicated to deploy because they must satisfy competing needs of different agencies. Discussion and planning can drag on for years without much result. Henderson credits the project’s steering committee — which includes representatives from each participating agency — with avoiding that trap.
“Because we bring all of these individuals to the table at the same time, the productivity we’re allowed to gain in conversation is pretty tremendous,” Henderson said. “That has solved a lot of implementation problems we would traditionally have seen.”
Plus, when selling the project to legislators, the group spoke with onevoice, which made a powerful impression, she added.
Health, Social and Human Services
New York City
HHS-Connect, a program operated by New York City’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), served as this category’s model for Digital Communities judges, who wanted to see health and human services systems that significantly broke down information silos and shared information with other agencies — a common idea that may not seem new, but is still tricky to deploy. Agencies closely guard their health and human services data because it’s often sensitive and, by law, only viewable by certain people.
During the summer of 2010, the first component of the program, called Worker-Connect, went live. The Web-based system enables select employees in social service agencies to view data about a client collected by other agencies. The aim is to ensure caseworkers are aware of all services available to needy clients from other social services agencies in the area.
To make Worker-Connect possible, the system needed an airtight role-based permission sign-on to keep employees from viewing prohibited information. Also critical to HHS-Connect’s success is a governance structure that gives commissioners from all city health and human service agencies powerful incentives to participate actively on the executive steering committee, said Isidore Sobkowski, CIO of HHS-Connect. The governance structure stipulates that if a commissioner can’t attend a meeting, a deputy commissioner cannot attend in his or her place. Needless to say, no commissioner wants to be cut out of the process, so the rule results in consistent and active participation, said Sobkowski. On the rare occasions someone couldn’t attend meetings, the steering committee kept them informed, and the commissioners appeared driven to make the next meeting, she said.
“If somebody can’t make it, it’s funny how apologetic they are,” Sobkowski said.
New York City provides one of the largest social services infrastructures in the world, serving more than 8 million people. Because of New York’s consolidated city/county government structure across five separate counties, more than a dozen agencies provide services to the needy. Now all of those agencies access Worker-Connect through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) data-sharing structure with a common front-end information and intake process. The SaaS component of the project won recognition from the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), a partnership of federal agencies aiming to support enterprisewide government information exchange standards and processes.
Clients only need to provide their personal information once to be included in a virtual integrated case file. Additional information, relevant only to specific agencies, is collected on an as-needed basis. With HHS-Connect, New York City has fundamentally changed how it provides social services by connecting clients, agencies and providers to ensure holistic and integrated services that wrap around a family.
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