Nov/Dec 2009

State News: August 2009


innovations 2009


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Wyoming Learns that Healthy Families Succeed

Wyoming: Healthy Families Succeed
When state officials in Wyoming put their heads together, they discovered a large chunk of folks on the state’s rolls were getting assistance from more than one state agency. Those same people were also costing the agencies big bucks.
In fact, 30,000 people were receiving services from two or more state agencies at the same time. Not only that, often because of health care and job issues, those people weren’t happy either. They were dependent on state social services.
“Some of those people were the costliest for all of our agencies,” said Robert Lampert, director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections. Lampert is also chair of the group that met to look at those receiving state assistance.
So if the state wanted to reduce its costs, it had to help these people help themselves. Lampert said when these people can get the health and employment support they need—they’re happy and the state is happy. That’s because healthy families succeed, he said.
And that’s exactly the aim of Wyoming’s program, appropriately called Healthy Families Succeed, one of eight national Innovations Awards winners from The Council of State Governments.
The program is about moving families to self-sufficiency through health and job support. That’s just better for Wyoming’s economy, Lampert said.
The highest cost, highest risk people were, for example, receiving 10 or more different medications a year, Lampert said. That was costly for the state.
These are the folks who don’t have a primary care physician and so they often must get health care from the emergency room, Lampert said. That’s where duplication happens.
“Their doctor just happens to be whoever’s in the ER,” Lampert said. So there’s no consistency and continuity with the medications they are receiving, he said. “They end up being overprescribed.”
So Healthy Families Succeed made a move to help these people. “By pairing them up with pharmacist teams who explained medications and what each medication does and other alternatives,” they were able to reduce the medications they needed, Lampert said.
“Nobody had ever taken the time to explain these things to them,” he said. “They were better able to take care of themselves.”
The program took the same approach with job services. State officials found when they targeted the highest cost, highest risk individuals for employment services, the state’s costs went down when those folks found jobs.
In fact, the program found that healthier families—both health-wise and job-wise—rely less on state services. State costs decreased by an average of more than $1,900 per person enrolled in the program.
The success of the program, which made those kinds of savings possible, all depended on good data. That meant multiple state agencies had to share and compare data to identify the highest-cost, highest-risk folks receiving services. That in itself was no small feat—it took one mega database.
That database included data from the state departments of health, corrections, family services, work force services and employment. More than that, the state formed a groundbreaking public-private partnership with Human Capital Management Services to get the job done.
The undertaking certainly sounds expensive, but the kicker is this: The state agencies all pitched in existing funds from their budgets and made the program happen—database and all—without asking for more money. State agencies simply shifted around dollars.
—Mikel Chavers


New Mexico Uses Online Courses for Endless Possibilities

New Mexico: Innovative Digital Education and Learning New Mexico (IDEAL-NM)
If you’re a high school dropout in New Mexico and the idea of going back to a traditional classroom is just too daunting, then the state’s Innovative Digital Education and Learning program, nicknamed IDEAL-New Mexico, is the program for you, said New Mexico Education Security Veronica Garcia..
Dropouts can take classes to graduate online.
If you’re a New Mexico teacher and you want to pursue certification online with all the flexibility that offers, IDEAL-New Mexico is also the program for you, she said.
If you’re a state agency director and you want a money-saving way to make sure all your employees receive the kind of professional development they need, IDEAL-New Mexico can also be the program for you, Garcia said.
In fact, for this New Mexico program, the possibilities seem endless.
“I believe that this program is going to revolutionize high schools and how students connect with higher education,” Garcia said. “I believe it’s going to save money with state government.”
IDEAL-New Mexico is a technology platform that is free to school districts, state agencies and other public entities to offer online courses for students and public employees. The program has the power to reduce travel expenses by offering classes online as well as provide people in rural areas unprecedented access to classes they might not be able to take otherwise.
“We’re not stuck by brick and mortar,” Garcia said. “There’s kids taking classes late at night.”
The first two classes offered through the program were Algebra I and New Mexico history, she said. From there, the program had such an amazing success rate, the state decided to move forward with the program, working to expand it into a professional training service as well.
And for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s plan to target high school dropouts, the program offers a way to make sure those who have dropped out of high school can come back and get their degree no matter where they are.
The state has 40,000 kids “that we’ve lost,” Garcia said. Those are high school dropouts. Along with Richardson, she wants those kids back.
“Wherever they’re at, we know several of them are just lacking one or two credits to high school—we can get them back,” Garcia said. “They don’t have to be at the high school, they can take classes at the YMCA.”
“IDEAL-NM will be the centerpiece to Graduate New Mexico so that high school dropouts have an alternative to earn credits toward graduation without actually coming back to school,” Richardson said in a press release. “But it will also be a way for state agencies, and public and nonprofit groups to provide coursework, hold meetings and trainings without the expense of travel. I see it as another way we are using our state funds wisely.”
The program began with online courses last year and today there are more than 2,000 classes and 99 eTeachers, Garcia said. In fall 2008, 610 students were enrolled in 694 courses, she said. The pass rate was 80 percent. In spring 2009, 359 students were enrolled in 426 courses with a pass rate of 94 percent. Then in summer 2009, 246 students were enrolled in 53 courses with a 99 percent pass rate, she said.
“We’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg with this program,” Garcia said. “We think it’s ideal.”
—Mikel Chavers



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