The Montana Virtual Human Services Pavilion continues to add services for its users.
Montanas Virtual Human Services Pavilion (VHSP) was created to aid in welfare reform but has done much more. For less than the estimated $3 million invested in the online marvel, the pavilion allows users to post and find jobs, helps Medicaid providers determine the eligibility of patients and offers doors into the commerce and education fields.
Despite nationwide interest and a commitment from state legislators who included the VHSP in an appropriations bill during the recently concluded session, this complete, one-stop shop hasnt taken off elsewhere.
"Weve had a lot of inquiries," said Mike Billings, administrator of the Operations and Technology Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. "But we really havent spent a lot of time marketing it."
Thats because Billings, his staff and TRW have been busy adding elements to the pavilion.
The latest is the virtual assistant, which recently concluded its testing phase and should be in operation this month. Users who click on it are shown a list of viewable topics, and are taken to the topic of choice. The virtual assistant is essentially a search tool that searches all sites associated with the VHSP.
People who use the virtual assistant will find information on a workers toolbox, Medicaid, birth certificates, public assistance, senior and long-term care, child care, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, the Health and Policy Services Division, employer services and job-seeker services.
Billings said the goal of the VHSP is to modernize the concept of the one-stop shop, hence the reason for recently adding services to the pavilion.
One recent addition is a nursing-home-comparison link. People can dial into a nursing-care kiosk and determine if a nursing home is up to standards. Deficiencies are noted there, so anyone researching nursing homes can do so from home, rather than driving all over the state.
An expansion is in the area of labor and industry. An employer who posts jobs in the pavilion doesnt have to bother with sending them to the state. The same employer can also search for qualified people to fill these jobs, sometimes eliminating the need to post the jobs in the first place. Also enhanced is the national job-search system, which gives Montana residents greater ease and flexibility in finding a job.
Upcoming enhancements and expansions include using a credit card to pay for a copy of ones birth certificate. The system now in place is password-protected, a major jump from a year ago when, to get a birth certificate, a person had to visit a county clerk and recorders office or the states vital records bureau, or receive a mailed application.
"You fill out the application and send along 10 bucks. After about three or four communications, you end up getting a birth certificate but it might take you three months," Billings said. Now the process through the pavilion takes about three minutes, as the birth certificate is produced online in the vital records bureau. The credit-card option will be available later this year.
Billings is working with the Montana Department of Justice to build a records-history system to document all of the records of criminals convicted in the state. What currently exists is the ability to screen nursing home attendants and child care attendants. But when the criminal-history records system is online, it will be used by public schools to research job applicants.
The administrator is also working with the Department of Commerce, and hopes to allow users the ability to access low-cost housing.
Despite the pavilions success, Billings and TRW are all alone in