Sharing Capitol Ideas - The 2010 CSG Innovations Award Winners

Need a job? Changing careers? Need help caring for a frail family member? These are just three of the topics addressed by the 2010 CSG Innovations Award winners. Given the budget situation facing many states, the need for states to learn from each other is more important than ever, whether that means doing more work with less resources, or doing something better than before. CSG Innovations Awards have played a key role in making that happen for more than 20 years. Here are the 2010 Innovations Award winners. 

CSG Eastern Region

Massachusetts Bridging the Opportunity Gap Job Readiness and Employability Initiative

Finding a job in this economy is hard for anybody, and especially youth. Finding a job as a youth with a troubled background makes that task significantly harder. Eventually, troubled youth who don't find work often return to crime.

The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and the Commonwealth Corporation created the Bridging the Opportunity Gap Job Initiative to help teens released from juvenile justice facilities develop social and vocational skills they need to find and hold jobs.                        

Community organizations, faith based organizations, and vocational schools across the Commonwealth provide services through grants under this initiative. These grants range from $60,000 to $100,000. Services generally involve career planning, vocational training, and internships. Participating teens start with 20 hours of career planning. They learn about good work habits, create resumes, and practice interviewing. This is followed by specific vocational training, like fabricating sheet metal and carpentry, and then an 8 week paid internship. Trained youth can also get certified in some vocations.  

Some programs teach participants how to become entrepreneurs. That includes creating a product and running a small business. Graduates in this track can do their internships in a microenterprise.  In 2009, the initiative funded 15 programs in the largest cities in the Commonwealth. More than 300 youth participated. About 35 percent of them got subsidized jobs upon completing the job training components of the program and 27 percent found unsubsidized work.

Contact Christine Kenney, Director of Education Services, Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, (617) 727-7575, Christine.kenney@state.ma.us.

New Hampshire Transitions in Caregiving

Many people know the sacrifice it takes to care for elderly parents or older siblings who live with them. New Hampshire's Transitions in Caregiving Program offers practical ways to ease that burden.

Under the program, caregiver specialists from 10 resource centers throughout the state visit caregivers at their homes. These specialists conduct a comprehensive assessment with the caregivers to determine the caregivers' needs. The specialists use a tool developed by the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability to conduct the assessments. Questions range from gathering financial and demographic information to more probing queries about how providing care impacts a caregiver's employment. 

The specialists use these assessments to develop personal support plans and budgets the caregivers can use to get services they need to continue delivering care at home. Such services include arranging transportation to appointments, adapting assistive equipment like Kindle readers to help deliver care, setting up emergency alert systems, and helping people modify their homes to better accommodate frail family members.

Federal funds from the Older Americans Act and some state money are available to help fund budgets developed from the assessments. Caregiver specialists approve and help oversee such budgets.

New Hampshire's Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services manages Transitions in Caregiving. The program served more than 500 families last year. Most of these people were women caring for husbands. They appreciated the opportunity to talk to someone about their own needs rather than their family member's needs, and they mentioned that simple changes they made because of the program significantly improved their quality of life.

Ultimately, Transitions in Caregiving helped these people avoid placing their loved ones in nursing homes, and that saved their families and the state money. 

Contact Kathleen F. Otte, Director, Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, (603) 271-4394, kathleen.f.otte@dhhs.state.nh.us.

CSG Midwestern Region

Indiana Court Information Transmission Extranet (INcite)

New regulations and new laws often mean more work for state agencies. But, in many cases, those agencies must pick up the additional work with the same or even fewer resources. That means state agencies must develop new tools to work more efficiently. The Indiana Court Information Transmission Extranet is an outstanding example of such a tool.

INcite consists of a dedicated electronic network, a website, and software that enables local governments in Indiana to exchange data with several state agencies for a variety of purposes.  

The Judicial Technology and Automation Committee of the Indiana Supreme Court set up INcite in 2005 to enable county courts to send traffic case conviction information electronically to the state bureau of motor vehicles. The state did this to comply with federal Commercial Drivers License regulations. At that time, most courts across the state sent the information by mail or fax. That amounted to about 10,000 paper records per week, and it took 20 staff to process those records. With INcite, the bureau now processes more than 13,000 records each week from 300 courts around the state, with less staff, and in significantly less time than in 2005.

The system's initial success led the technology committee to greatly expand its use. Today, the state department of health, department of revenue, state police, department of child services, and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, use INcite to exchange data between courts and law enforcement agencies in all 92 counties in the state. These agencies use INcite to process traffic citations, process tax warrants, create and manage jury pools, process marriage licenses, report various court statistics, and issue and register emergency protection orders.

INcite is also the key component in the Indiana Supreme Court's plan to establish a Statewide Case Management System. 

Contact Mary L. DePrez, Director and Counsel for Trial Court Technology, The Judicial Technology and Automation Committee of the Indiana Supreme Court, (317) 233-9926, mdeprez@jtac.in.gov

BadgerCare Plus

BadgerCare Plus is an innovative strategy Wisconsin used to expand health care to state residents and to simplify the administration of its public health programs. The state created BadgerCare Plus in 2008 by consolidating the Medicaid, Healthy Start and SCHIP programs into one program. Doing this enabled the state department of health to standardize 8 different income tests and deductions used by those programs and to streamline the process to apply for benefits under the new consolidated program.

BadgerCare Plus covers all kids regardless of income. It covers parents and relative caregivers up to 200% of the federal poverty level. And it covers childless, low-income adults who meet certain criteria. That population had little or no access to public health benefits before BadgerCare Plus.

Families with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level enroll in a Standard Plan. Families with incomes above that level enroll in a Benchmark Plan. Some people in the Standard Plan, and everyone in the Benchmark Plan, pay monthly premiums based on income. The Standard Plan has minimal co-payments for services such as prescription drugs, doctor visits, going to the hospital or using the emergency room. The Benchmark Plan has higher co-payments for those services. There are no co-payments for child checkups and other preventive services under either plan. People can apply online for benefits under both.

The program includes a pay-for-performance requirement to hold health plans accountable for results, and it uses a Clinical Advisory Committee on Health and Emerging Technology to advise the secretary of the department of health about appropriate benefits.

The state department of health recruited more than 200 community organizations to enroll people in BadgerCare Plus. Their success is obvious. In 2007, approximately 500,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid, SCHIP, and Healthy Start programs in Wisconsin. By 2010, almost 700,000 people were able to obtain health care benefits through BadgerCare Plus. 

Contact Linda McCart, Policy Director, Department of Health Services, (608) 266.9296, Linda.McCart@wi.gov.

CSG Southern Region

Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response (VIPER)

Timely information and good communication are two things government officials must have to adequately deal with natural disasters and emergencies. This initiative by the state department of emergency management delivers both components in a very effective manner.

VIPER uses special software to integrate information from 150 sources to create and display a common set of data on a Website that federal, state, and local officials can use to predict and manage emergencies throughout the state. Information sources include real-time reports from police and firefighters, utility outage reports, detailed maps, building blueprints, satellite images, and applicable weather and road conditions.

VIPER can monitor conditions that can become emergencies and issue alerts. It can be used to determine the best way to deploy people and equipment before or during emergencies. It can track the progress in containing an incident. And it can plot the potential impact of an incident on surrounding areas. For example, the state used VIPER to assess the impact of snowstorms that hit the state hard in 2009 and 2010. The department of emergency management used VIPER to create zones around nuclear plants and then determine the potential amount of radiation that might fall in those zones if a plant has an accident. The U.S. Secret Service used VIPER to monitor the 56th Presidential Inauguration.

The system works so well that Virginia has already shared the source code with agencies in seven other states, and the department is willing to give that code to any state that wants it.

Contact Brian Crumpler, GIS Manager, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Prepardness Division, (804) 484-4199, viper@vdem.virginia.gov.

West Virginia Games for Health

It's no secret that kids today spend a lot of time in front of computers and other electronic media. For better or worse, the days of playing outside like many of us did as kids seem to be over. However, staff with the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency developed Games for Health as a fun way to combat obesity by getting kids to use their screen time to exercise at school.

Games for Health is a partnership between several state agencies and Konami Entertainment Corporation to set up Konami's Dance Dance Revolution video game in schools throughout the state. The state chose Dance Dance Revolution because kids must be physically active to play, they can play it indoors, and because the game provides an alternative to traditional PE activities that some kids can't or won't play.

The equipment costs about $850 per school. This buys two dance mats, a PlayStation 2, and the Dance Dance Revolution video game.

West Virginia University staff administers the project and trains school PE teachers to use the game and promote it to students. Their goal is to get kids to play at least 30 minutes a day.

So far, program staff has set up the game in 142 elementary schools, 166 middle schools, and 93 high schools.

Konami also sponsors an annual, statewide tournament as an added incentive to get kids to play the game. Tournament winners get a $2,500 scholarship. More than 10,000 kids from 100 schools across the state participated in this tournament in 2010. 

West Virginia's Games for Health program has been featured on Good Morning America, MSNBC-TV, and even Saturday Night Live.

Program staff says Games for Health pioneered a new era of "exergaming." For example, kids who start using Dance Dance Revolution at school to exercise might use a Nintendo Wii for that same purpose at home. They burn calories in both cases. And that is a good thing! 

Contact: Nidia Henderson, Health Promotions Director, West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency, (304) 558-7850, ext. 52639, Nidia.I.Henderson@wv.gov.

CSG Western Region

Washington Career Bridge

Years ago, exploring a new career or changing jobs often meant many trips to a library to sift through reams of publications about different professions. Now, Washington residents who are trying to figure out what they want to do in life can get just about everything they need on the Washington Career Bridge. This bridge is a website people can use to investigate 5,000 occupations.

Users typically start in the Explore Careers section. Here they can take a quiz or fill out an Interest Profile to help them determine what they want to do. They can also download a nine step guide to developing a career plan. At this section, they can access statistics showing which occupations are increasing or decreasing in demand around the state and what those jobs pay. They can find the nearest career counseling center. They can take an online self-assessment to see if their skills and abilities match a potential career. And they can use a self-sufficiency calculator to help determine whether their prospective career will pay enough to support them.      

Once someone identifies a potential career, they can change to the Education and Training component on the bridge. Here they will find detailed information about colleges and other organizations offering courses to train people for that career. This includes the cost of the training, and perhaps more importantly, how many program graduates got jobs.

Users who identify a potential career and find a source for training can proceed to the Fund Your Training component to link to federal and state financial aid. These are grants, loans, scholarships, and work study opportunities.

People who settle on a career can use the bridge to locate job fairs around the state and apply for related jobs online.

About 17,000 people use the Washington Career Bridge each month.

Contact Karen Pyle, Career Bridge Web Manager, Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, (360) 664-4622, kpyle@wtb.wa.gov.

Washington Health Technology Assessment Program

Like many states, health care costs for Washington state employees and Medicaid continue to increase. However, studies show that as much as one-third of health care spending is wasted on procedures or treatments that don't improve patients' quality of life or extend their lives. The Washington Health Care Authority set up this program in 2007 to ensure the treatments it pays for under its state sponsored health insurance plans and Medicaid are effective.

The program works like this. The Health Care Authority Administrator selects eight things to be assessed each year. These can be medical and surgical devices and procedures, medical equipment, and diagnostic tests. Assessments can be ordered for new technologies or when existing technologies are used in new ways. Calcium storing and hip resurfacing are two examples.

The Authority then contracts with researchers to review evidence and evaluate the applicable devices, procedures, or tests. The researchers use information from clinical trials and case studies in their reviews. The National Institute of Clinical Effectiveness is one of many information sources at their disposal.The researchers then compile reports and assign ratings about whether the scientific evidence demonstrates that the selected health technologies are safe, effective, and affordable. The state posts these reports online for public comment. After that, an independent committee of health care practitioners uses the reports and comments to determine if the state should cover the selected medical devices, procedures, and tests.

Since January 2007, the state has completed 15 health technology assessments. Eleven are currently under way. The completed assessments resulted in decisions by the Authority not to pay for eight technologies and only pay for seven others under certain conditions. Collectively, those decisions enabled the state to save more than $27 million while still ensuring good health care to the affected beneficiaries.

Contact Leah Hole-Curry, Program Director, Health Care Authority, (360) 923-2748, leah.hole-curry@hca.wa.gov.