Natrona County DA and Juvenile Detention Center Implements New RiteTrack Solution

Handel implemented a new RiteTrack system for the Natrona County Juvenile Detention Center on May 13.

The newly implemented, juvenile detention case management solution contains functionality for case management, document management, case notes and a wide variety of reporting features. The RiteTrack system replaced the center’s previous paper-based tracking system.

In Natrona County various organizations work together to provide juveniles in need with services. These include community groups, the school district, district attorney’s office, Wyoming Department of Family Services, Department of Corrections, Sheriff’s Office, City of Casper Police, and the Juvenile Detention Center.

The local Project Manager, Amy Dorman, said “RiteTrack has allowed us to view information on the juvenile as a whole including family history, school history, legal background, jail admissions and any assigned groups. It takes time to assess what is really right for a youth.”

The RiteTrack juvenile module met the vast majority of the JDC’s needs right out of the box without much configuration work.

Handel Project Manager Ben McKay said, “The reporting feature in RiteTrack includes custom reports about daily case loads, client populations, client demographics, censuses and one for an attorney in the District Attorney’s office. The ability to collaborate between the JDC’s and DA’s offices is paramount, because the DA does client intake for the JDC.”

RiteTrack is a software solution used by human services programs throughout state, and county governments. It provides the primary means for caseworkers, administrators, and other professionals to manage clients and caseloads.


Software and Technology in the Juvenile Justice Field

This year we are celebrating our 15th year in business and our 14th year of working in the field of juvenile justice. When I first started Handel, I had a vague plan of developing software for county governments. One of our earliest projects was to develop a database for a juvenile assessment center in a large county in Colorado. At the time I knew very little about the realm of juvenile justice, but I quickly became fascinated with the field. First, it appeared that it was severely underserved in the area of information technology. More importantly though, I felt it was a field where good technology could make a real difference. Until then, I had spent most of my professional career consulting for major corporations where the main focus seemed to be on maximizing profits. In the juvenile justice field I quickly learned that we could make a difference that would go a lot deeper than financial gain. We could actually make a difference in somebody’s life. As the phone started ringing from other counties who were hearing about our juvenile assessment center system I realized that perhaps we could actually build a business around this field. Today, our RiteTrack software is used by counties, states, and non-profits nationally. Thousands of staff members rely on RiteTrack every day for working with at-risk clients. This is the good news.
The bad news is that the majority of juvenile justice agencies in our country still function with very outdated technology. As individuals we live in a world with smartphones, tablets, apps, and social media that have made a dramatic difference in our personal lives over the past decade. Why has this technology not transcended into our professional world? Why are we still using outdated technology, sometimes dating back over a decade, to manage the kids we work with? What changes do we believe is on the horizon for information systems in the juvenile justice field? Those are questions that I hope to answer here.
This summer a team of MBA students from the University of Wyoming worked on a research project for us. They contacted over 100 different juvenile justice agencies nationally to learn about their information habits. The research covered both county and state juvenile justice entities. In the end, they were successful in interviewing individuals in leadership positions within 22 different jurisdictions. While this does not meet the definition of statistical significance (30) it still provides us with a few trends. The survey asked what type of tools they used in order to track juvenile clients, and we classified the responses into 5 categories: paper, spreadsheets, local database, web-based database and mobile solutions.
With regard to databases, this refers to any electronic case management system (whether homegrown or provided by a vendor) that stores data in a database. We distinguish between web-based and non-web-based in order to get a feel for the overall age of technology since most modern systems are web-based. Our definition of web-based is that the system can be accessed over the web and can integrate with e-mail and other web technologies. Each respondent may have responded more than once. In other words, they may use a combination of several tools such as paper, spreadsheets, and databases to track juveniles. It is also important to note that current RiteTrack users were not included in this survey as that would have skewed the results. Here are the results from our survey:
Juvenile Justice Survey

 

 

 

 

The survey indicates that the majority of the juvenile justice agencies we interviewed rely on a combination of traditional, non-web-based databases, spreadsheets, and paper to track their clients. Only one respondent uses a modern web-based solution, and nobody yet relies on mobile devices for this purpose other than for e-mail correspondence.

This survey is consistent with what we hear when we are out attending conferences or visiting with prospective clients. We frequently hear complaints from juvenile justice professionals that it is difficult to keep track of their clients because they have to enter data into multiple systems, they struggle with poorly designed user-interfaces, and it is difficult or near impossible to get good data out of their systems. We frequently hear complaints that they often spend more time doing data entry than they spend serving clients. Furthermore, with some agencies having to enter data into multiple systems, it becomes increasingly difficult to get a single-view or report on a client and his/her activities.

There are several reasons why we are in the situation we are in today. First, juvenile justice agencies have not had a lot of choices of software specifically designed for tracking juveniles. There have been basically two choices:  to either build a custom solution from scratch or to modify an existing system to meet the needs. Neither choice is particularly attractive. A custom solution typically comes with a very high price tag and a great risk that the system may not work as expected. Modifying an existing solution can also be expensive and can become a grueling project of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Often administrators must sacrifice the established workflow because, in the end, the new system works differently. Financing is also another reason agencies tend to stick with what they have already. In a time of ever tightening budgets, IT projects such as implementing new software are often put on the back burner.

If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps there is some comfort to know that you are not alone. Thousands of juvenile justice agencies across the country are dealing with similar issues. We are also realizing that the present situation has more to do with politics than it has to do with technology and security concerns, and fortunately we are starting to see a gradual shift towards technologies that can provide truly integrated information solutions with friendlier user-interfaces.

New Technology

As web technologies mature and gain trust, we expect to see more rapid adoption across the juvenile justice sector. A modern web-based juvenile justice solution such as RiteTrack will offer several benefits and will be

  • Easier to use
  • Easier to integrate
  • Easier to access from different computers and devices
  • Easier to provide access to others outside of your agency

Easier to Use

Newly hired caseworkers just out of school would be stupefied by an old system with a green screen that would require them to enter every single field on a form before they can go to the next “page,” and where they would have to enter the same data on different computers into different databases. New graduates are accustomed to getting e-mails and messages on their smartphones, they use tablets for most of their course work and they are active on social media. On the job they now expect an easy-to -use system where they can enter data once, upload documents electronically, have the system auto-generate notifications to others, set calendar appointments, and which, overall, works very much like the social media tools they use every day.

Easier to Integrate

Old databases are information silos wherein certain information lives in certain databases and does not interconnect with other data in other “silos.” A modern web-based architecture makes it easy to create web-services, interfaces which allow the data to communicate with other systems whether a financial system, e-mail, or perhaps, a database in a different jurisdiction.

Easier to Access from Different Computers and Devices

A web-based solution requires no software installation. Users can access the system from wherever they have an Internet connection. This makes it equally easy for staff to access and enter data whether they are in the office, in the field, or at home. It also opens up a number of other options.

Easier to Provide Access to Others Outside of Your Agency

Imagine allowing a teacher report truancy directly from the school. Imagine sending an outcome survey to the parents and having them complete it online. Having a web-based solution truly fulfills the promise of getting the right information to or from the right person at the right time.

The good news is that RiteTrack delivers on all of these accounts today. If you want to learn more about how RiteTrack can help your county, state, or non-profit organization, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to do a personalized demonstration of RiteTrack or put you in contact with other agencies which use RiteTrack. Our fundamental belief is that technology needs to be a tool that allows you to spend more time serving your clients, not a hindrance that gets in the way of that mission.

 


RiteTrack

Stewards of Change Provides Hope for Interoperability in Human Services and Beyond

Since starting Handel IT in 1997 I have seen a growing demand for information sharing between different entities with which our customers interact. Whether it is a juvenile intervention program that needs information from the judicial system, or a school or a tribe who needs to share enrollment data with their social services department; the trends are clear. Our customers believe that interoperability is a key ingredient for providing better services to the clients that they serve, for giving their employees better tools, and for creating better results overall for all stakeholders. Over the past 15 years we have seen major advancements in information technologies, and with that, a growing group of people are supporting the concept of inter-agency information sharing. One has to look no further than to the most popular social media sites to realize the benefits of information sharing (of course, one also has to look no further than some of these sites to see some of the potential caution one has to take with regards to information sharing). Today, technology is no longer a barrier to interoperability. Over the past several years I have come to learn that the biggest barriers to interoperability come from government regulations, politics, and just people in general who are adverse to the concept of sharing “their” data.

Handel_Interoperability_Vision_Juvenile_Justice

Handel’s view of information what an information sharing scenario may look like in a juvenile justice program.

With this mindset, it was a great experience and a great honor as well, to be invited to the 2012 Stewards of Change Conference at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. This year the 7th Stewards of Change Conference was titled “From Field to Fed III: Advancing Health and Human Service Interoperability Amid the Challenges and Opportunities of Healthcare Reform.” The roughly 100 invite-only attendees represented Federal Government, State Government, County Government, and Industry. Being a part of this three-day symposium gave me a whole new outlook on how far we have come in changing interoperability in human services from a dream to a reality. Videos and commentary about the conference are accessible on the Stewards of Change Web Site. Perhaps one of the highlights for me was the ability to hear how motivated some of the key players across Federal and State Government are to make this happen. In opening remarks, George Sheldon, Assistant Secretary for Administration for Children and Families, commented on the need for creating common eligibility determination systems across programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF. His sentiment is that it is ultimately about serving the client better and by connecting systems we can accomplish just that. We have already removed the technology barriers. Now we need to remove what Sheldon refers to as “mindset” barriers. We need to move from a mindset of “my information” to “our information.”  Mr. Sheldon’s comments resonated from other attendees, State CIOs, heads of State Health and Human Services, and other key players throughout the conference. It was truly refreshing to discover that these groups of key decision makers are getting behind an initiative that has been a fundamental belief here at Handel for many years.

Upon return from Stewards of Change conference, it is even clearer to me where we are moving, and how Handel and our RiteTrack platform is aligned for where the industry is moving. One thing is certain:  Information sharing and interoperability between different departments is going to be a reality of our future. Number one, because we owe it to our clients in order to provide the best possible services. Number two, because the world is coming to expect this from us. Our clients can share their vacation video on YouTube, their photos on Facebook, but their social workers can’t get access to their education records. As one conference attendee put it, “My credit card company knows more about me than I know about the clients I am supposed to serve.”

While we don’t have a completely clear picture to what the future may hold when it comes to sharing information, we have a few ideas of what it may entail. Two ideas seem to prevail. One is the concept of a common client index, or a common person registry. The other is the concept of web-based client portals. These concepts are familiar to RiteTrack customers. For many years now RiteTrack has been grounded in the philosophy of a “hub and spoke” model, where the “hub” represents a common client index. In a tribe this is the enrollment system which tracks all members enrolled in the tribe. To get services from the tribe, a person typically (but not always) has to be enrolled in the tribe. The various “spokes” represent the different services that the tribe offers, whether TANF, General Assistance, Indian Child Welfare, or other programs. While the central enrollment data (basically client demographics and contact data) may be shared across programs, the data specific to a particular program (i.e., TANF) is not shared unless a specific request for sharing is made. The concept of a client or citizen portal is one which we have experimented with and the one we are currently doing for a few of our customers. We are convinced that the concept of accessing your own data inside a RiteTrack system will become (someday soon) as common as checking your bank account online. Why shouldn’t our clients be able to review their service history, see what programs they are eligible for, complete assessments, and see their service utilization online?

I remain confident that in the coming years, we will overcome the current obstacles to information sharing. Here at Handel we are excited to be part of driving the change. If you would like to discuss interoperability and information sharing, please do not hesitate to contact me.. Perhaps one of the highlights for me was the ability to hear how motivated some of the key players across Federal and State Government are to make this happen. In opening remarks, George Sheldon, Assistant Secretary for Administration for Children and Families, commented on the need for creating common eligibility determination systems across programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF. His sentiment is that it is ultimately about serving the client better and by connecting systems we can accomplish just that. We have already removed the technology barriers. Now we need to remove what Sheldon refers to as “mindset” barriers. We need to move from a mindset of “my information” to “our information.”  Mr. Sheldon’s comments resonated from other attendees, State CIOs, heads of State Health and Human Services, and other key players throughout the conference. It was truly refreshing to discover that these groups of key decision makers are getting behind an initiative that has been a fundamental belief here at Handel for many years.

 


Washington County Juvenile Detention Center Discusses Benefits of RiteTrack

The Washington County Juvenile Detention Center, probation office and juvenile court work directly with youth who have been charged or sentenced for violating the law in Washington and Madison counties in Arkansas.

Essential information about offenders and services are often difficult to track on paper or with database software, but in order to distribute services to its facilities and provide rehabilitative programming for its residents, that data needs to be accurate and easily accessible.

The Washington County JDC and probation office found that its old database system and many other industry solutions provided the ability to combine and catalogue information from various paper sources and offered some reporting capabilities. However, the information in the database itself could not be shared between the JDC, the court and the probation office within the juvenile detention system. Meanwhile, the court and probation offices were operating without any software information management system and tracked everything on paper. The old database system also was not effective for repeat offenders because it created a duplicate client record for each repeated offense.

When Washington County began looking for a better software solution, it discovered RiteTrack. This solution provided the centralized database with a key benefit: the capability to share client information between offices without sharing sensitive case information. With RiteTrack the JDC, probation office (including prosecutors and public defenders), and court can all enter a new offender into RiteTrack and the other offices can then access the record of that offender.RiteTrack’s security parameters restrict case data viewing, but allow for client information sharing between departments. Therefore, all updates to the offender’s record made by an office are subsequently updated across all the departments.

Specific functionality of RiteTrack which is used by the probation and court side includes management of:

  • Court dockets
  • Family In Need of Services (FINS)
  • Dependent and neglect
  • Meetings and hearings
  • Criminal cases
  • Private cases
  • Interstate compact
The JDC tracks and manages:
  • Check-in
  • Intake and background
  • Room assignment
  • Social worker recommendations
  • Observations

Now with consistent information for each offender throughout the system, all the offices are experiencing better information. This has increased productivity within each office and case processing has become more efficient as well.

The Washington County JDC is a multi-bed holding facility for both clients who have been sentenced and those waiting to be sentenced, but it also provides fee-based holding services for surrounding Arkansas counties.

Juvenile systems across the country can benefit from a RiteTrack solution. This offering is configured to meet any office or department’s specific information management needs. With better information management, juvenile facilities can offer more efficient services to their clients and can increase record reliability across departments and offices. Handel Information Technologies, the maker of RiteTrack, has 15 years of experience in providing software solutions to the juvenile justice field.


Arkansas Division of Youth Services

The State of Arkansas Division of Youth Services (DYS) is using RiteTrack statewide throughout its operations and to manage a network of its service providers throughout the state.  This is a multi-agency deployment of RiteTrack where DYS and its service providers around the state connect into RiteTrack over the internet to enter service, placement, transport and billing data.  RiteTrack data resides centrally in DYS’ central office, but via the internet, providers can access from different locations around the state.  DYS staff uses RiteTrack primarily to track billing related to its eight service providers, as well as to track the placement of the children it helps.  RiteTrack also helps DYS with its incident investigations/reports, interstate travel compacts and more. In addition to the multitude of functionality, much of which was custom built for DYS, part of this project also entailed a significant amount of data conversion from DYS’ prior Juvenile Tracking System into RiteTrack.


RiteTrack Simplifies Information Management in Whatcom County, WA

An Integrated justice information system is the holy grail of information technology for many larger municipalities. Traditionally, counties and cities developed information systems specific to each division. This left information sharing and communication between departments difficult at best.

Before RiteTrack, all case notes were kept on paper by probation officers, all statistics were drawn up by hand.  When information was needed, it was only accessible through the individual probation officer. Due to space concerns, when youths were no longer under Whatcom County supervision, files were  moved off-site. When youths re-entered the system, requesting and gathering information about them took time and considerable effort.

Whatcom first implemented RiteTrack’s comprehensive information management system in their Juvenile Court Administration to track clients through the court process into detention or other alternative sanctions, and eventually out into the community.  For Whatcom County employees, they enter data on juveniles just once and the information follows the youths through the different stages through the legal system. This now not only saves a lot of time, but it integrates the information and allows workers to have a holistic picture of their clients at all times.

Handel’s RiteTrack significantly improves the monitoring of the juveniles in the system by providing a central place for all information relating to a youth to be kept.  Legal information, detention information and social information (treatment, school, probation appointments, home visits, etc.) are all kept on RiteTrack where it is instantly accessible to authorized persons.  David Reynolds, Juvenile Court Administrator explains, “If I receive a call from a parent relating to a case or probation event, from my desk I can easily access the information relating to the youth.  Before we adopted RiteTrack, whenever probation officers needed to provide or obtain information about a youth being detained in our facility, they actually had to physically enter the facility and retrieve the written information, or write the information in the youth’s detention file. Now they can do this from their office without having to leave it. Often times, as well, the Court has us look up information in RiteTrack during court to determine what has been going on with the youth- last time in detention, missed probation appointments, and so on”.

Whatcom County has taken RiteTrack out into the field to the point the on an in-home visit, if probation officers need an arrest warrant, instead of having to leave, get it and come back, officers can notify  judges, who can sign the warrant and through RiteTrack’s document manager have it ready on the probation officer’s laptop without worrying whether the youth will be there when they return with the warrant.

As for those statistical reports, according to Reynolds, one report used to take him 30 hours each quarter to compile.  Now it takes him less than 30 seconds from start to finish.