Homeless individuals. Refugees and immigrants. Families in crisis. People with disabilities.
These are just some of the vulnerable populations Catholic Social Services (CSS) serves from their headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska. Citizens and leaders of every size often have questions and opinions about how to serve people in need. And for CSS, hard data has become a powerful tool in demonstrating the impact of their compassion-centered work and the need for that work to expand.
Catholic Social Services’ (CSS) overall mission is to serve Alaskans in need throughout the state. The organization’s main goal is to help build permanent stability in people’s lives. They do this by providing emergency shelter, case management, homeless and supportive family services, and more.
Furthermore, CSS’ homeless family services program helps move people from homelessness to housing and offers homeless prevention initiatives. They’re now expanding services to “light touch” case management and using Apricot 360 to document these services and track outcomes. With Apricot 360, all client data can be more easily accessed to meet the Homeless Management Information System’s (HMIS) complex reporting requirements and coordinate with other providers. HMIS is an Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-mandated database that organizations with homeless programs must use.
Like every service-based organization working hard to improve people’s lives, CSS depends on efficiently accessing accurate and timely information about every client who comes to them for the quality services CSS provides. Data can tell a powerful and unique story about what CSS is accomplishing in public health and social services. Hard facts can show what’s working, what needs improvement and outcomes that prove CSS is vital for the community.
They strive to provide dignity to vulnerable people and call on the community to support their efforts and participate in the success of CSS clients. They seek to provide options for the poor, support workers’ rights and provide caring and loving respite—a safety net of programs aligned with Catholic teachings. They are there to help with body, mind and soul.
Catholic Social Services can handle multiple aspects of a participant’s transition to stability, including anything from securing housing to accessing mental health services. Everyone has a different story and a unique set of needs. That’s why it’s essential to be able to carefully and accurately track, share and report information across multiple channels quickly. As the organization has grown, CSS knew it needed to level up their data management protocols in order to serve people better, secure more funding and remain compliant with outside agencies tracking their progress. So they turned to Social Solutions to help with some challenges.
CSS needed to create a standardized case management system that they could apply across multiple programs. Before, the organization had not been able to electronically document their case management work which made tracking outcomes extremely time-consuming and difficult.
With the adoption of Apricot 360, CSS can better manage refugee, immigration and housing programs and process data points that demonstrate if participants meet specific requirements for accessing those programs. Case managers are required to collect an individual’s data at each stage of service. With Apricot 360, CSS can now customize a solution to collect the information they need based on how each department operates. Administrators no longer have to track down, collate, cross-reference and rifle through endless files to build an accurate picture of a participant’s status, progress and outcomes. Enrollment in programs is easier, more uniform, and data is simple to access—especially when decisions need to be made quickly. Apricot 360 is flexible and able to deal with complex data, which enables its seamless support of six different programs within CSS.
Privacy and dignity are also important when serving participants. With Apricot 360, permissions can be set that allow specific staff members and administrators to access only the information they need to make time-sensitive decisions and long-term strategies. While all team members can see which services are being provided, confidential information is protected on a case-by-case basis. Case managers and administrators can assign different workflows depending on the program and the level of visibility necessary for various team members.
In order to provide family disability services, CSS needs to carefully track case notes and the information about services to remain compliant with Medicaid requirements. CSS wanted to expand participation with Medicaid, so data reporting became even more important than ever.
CSS has been able to use Apricot 360’s highly customizable features to support exactly what they need on a daily basis. This includes seamlessly accessing information when federal reporting requirements change—including data required for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS). Apricot 360 supports those data standards so CSS can confidently update that data when those changes occur.
The ability to pull data quickly has been a game-changer for many departments at CSS. Apricot 360 has empowered staff to access accurate, timely information on program impact, community outcomes and more to tell the story of how CSS is making a difference every day. When the media has questions, public officials need facts, funders want information, or partners request insights, Apricot 360 is the engine that helps effortlessly pull relevant information together.
Internally, quickly accessing information helps inform CSS leadership on ways to improve programming, empower and motivate staff, and make important planning decisions for the organization. Data-driven processes and leadership decisions that used to take a month can now be completed within a week. Saving administrative time allows for more strategic implementation of programs, more time serving participants and better visibility for leadership.
Social Solutions has helped Catholic Social Services to:
Catholic Social Services staff, administrators and leadership are experts in providing compassionate care to the most vulnerable people in their communities. Their heart will always be in working one-on-one with individuals who need support in getting back on their feet or moving into their next chapters. CSS deeply understands that data is an essential aspect of getting the organizational support they need to do the hard work. Data tells their story.
Being in control of data has enabled CSS to show how they successfully transition adults and families to more stable futures. In addition, it allows the organization to align information across multiple channels while meeting the stringent reporting requirements of government agencies.
Reporting for funders has also become easier. CSS has been able to submit more grant applications, increasing funding possibilities that include two new grants related to education around COVID-19 and health. These are grants they were not able to previously pursue.
Prior to working with Social Solutions, CSS had a little trouble tracking their medical respite program participant activity. CSS is participating in a research study with Notre Dame looking at the efficacy of a medical respite program like the one currently being used.
CSS has been able to make fast decisions that were not possible when they had depended almost solely on spreadsheets. Before, it might take two weeks to assemble data manually. But now that their data is standardized across all clients— even as far back as three or four years— information can be accessed literally within minutes, and case file visibility is crystal clear. This new level of fast, flexible and customizable data management has, in turn, greatly benefitted their relationship with Notre Dame researchers and improved the quality of data going into the study.
But it gets even better. Staff members who work in CSS’ refugee and immigration services program were not always so tech-savvy. Their expertise is working with clients with English as a second language, so they needed a system easy to adopt with a few technical barriers as possible. By working closely with Social Solutions, they were able to customize design features that make work easier, allowing them to focus on clients. For CSS, a major success indicator is how happy end users are in using the platform. Simply put, everyone was happy. In fact, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) gave CSS a glowing review of their data tracking in Apricot 360. As a result of a significant return on investment (ROI) for ORR, the relationship with CSS is stronger and will likely lead to more agency investment.
After understanding how Apricot 360 could significantly ease administrative workloads, CSS expanded their initial use of the platform and adopted it for the family disability services Medicaid program. CSS began tracking referrals and intake for the medical respite program, and things started clicking. Also, CSS no longer has to depend on their HMIS system to provide housing numbers which may change faster than the technology. CSS can provide accurate numbers and demonstrate their expertise in documenting exactly how adults and families are transitioning to stability with ease and confidence.
This year CSS met their overall data-based goals for the first time. One of their goals was to improve client-level data in their reporting—and they did just that. In addition, because of Apricot 360, CSS was able to draw important distinctions in the comprehensive case notes that are required in the audit. In short, CSS was able to create a database that was exactly what they needed for a fraction of the cost.
Being able to share results in real time has helped build trust with funding agencies so that they can do great things for more people. For multiservice agencies like CSS, change is the journey. And having a customizable solution with a partner that understands the nonprofit landscape has been instrumental in fueling growth and success.
Finally, the relationship between healthcare providers and hospitals, and those providing homelessness services, has been strengthened by a robust referral and intake process. Now utilizing Apricot 360’s digital intake forms, CSS no longer has to use obsolete forms of communication, including faxes. The thirty-question digital intake forms have also increased data privacy and security, reduced the number of staff hours previously used to transfer data, and made the process more streamlined for people who need services in areas like Juneau, which are far from Anchorage offices.
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