Computer system will aid social-services workers More efficient claims processing expected in April

February 04, 1997|By Kristina M. Schurr | Kristina M. Schurr,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Social-service recipients will get help faster and social workers' jobs will get easier after April, when a new computer system tried out in smaller counties over the past decade arrives in Anne Arundel.

People who get food stamps, medical assistance and child-support payments can expect to see claims processed more efficiently once the county installs the Client Information System (CIS), a Department of Human Resources computer program that helps case workers track the progress of aid recipients.

CIS links child-support payment records, welfare rolls and child protective services. It retrieves a client's status with a few keystrokes, allowing caseworkers to quickly view and process claims and reports, which used to take days.

Prince George's County implements CIS today, after which Anne Arundel County and Baltimore will be the only jurisdictions in Maryland not on the system.

"This will have a good effect on the population we serve," said Rodney Palmer, policy specialist for the Department of Social Services in Baltimore County, the most recent jurisdiction to implement CIS.

Because caseworkers can process applications for services such as medical assistance immediately, people can receive help more quickly, he said.

"In the old way we had to hand-write medical assistance forms, mail them and wait for them to come back. In two or three days we now can do what used to take more than one week," Palmer said.

But some social workers say it may take some time before they become adept enough at using the computer program to process claims faster.

"The staff will love it once they get a handle on it," said Carol Dominick, office manager for Baltimore County's Towson district and a three-year CIS veteran from Harford County, which started the system in the fall of 1993.

Other counties have helped worked out the bugs in the system. Montgomery County went on the system in July after the Department of Human Resources eradicated most of the software problems that had resulted in late child-support payments and the cutoff of financial assistance to clients wrongly identified as ineligible, said Jack Pepper, the department's director of the program.

Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Baltimore County and Baltimore get the software last because they have the biggest populations and the largest numbers of social-service recipients, said Paulette McFaul, the Human Resources coordinator for Prince George's County.

"We wanted to be sure the system was running at its best before going to more populous jurisdictions," McFaul said.

Baltimore, which has more public-assistance recipients than the rest of Maryland combined, is scheduled to start CIS in March 1998, five months after the federal requirement requiring such automated system goes into effect.

Pub Date: 2/04/97

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