A family seeking support with housing comes to their local welfare office: How are we going to find them housing when resources are already stripped? A child presenting at a psychiatric emergency ward when the hospital is already overfilled due to COVID-19 cases – What disposition does he need? It is crises like these which we are currently facing in human services, and the responses are going to be difficult, and many. We need to plan now.
Any good administrator plans with data. And many administrators today have access to a new data source that they may not be mining to its fullest potential: CANS, ANSA and FAST data. Some projects are upwards of a decade into their child welfare, system of care, or behavioral health implementations – overflowing with rich information that administrators can tap into in helping to prepare for what’s happening now.
For instance, most ‘TCOM’ forms have an item called ‘Residential Stability’ that tells you housing stability issues for that family. Looking at the ‘actionability’ of this item over the last two years will tell you trends on such features as housing issues in your community, and the rate at which that problem is resolved in your system. If you set up your system right, you can compare different solutions for this problem by different providers in your area, and you can have a sense of areas where the problem is most acute. As this rate changes in response to the crisis, this could be used to argue for more resources, and also to help distinguish which programs in your area should be further boosted due to ongoing success.
And for the child coming in for psychiatric hospitalization? A good system for sorting who is most in need of inpatient stay and which could be moved to a diversion would be really helpful when hospital slots are becoming so thin. This is doable by identifying high risk profiles for your incoming population, and then putting into place point-of-contact decision support that sorts children of moderate and lower risk to diversions that are outside of the hospital, as well as communicating with community providers for managing children without relying on the hospital clinicians.
The point is: there is helpful information in that growing body of CANS, ANSA and FAST data you’ve been amassing. Especially when integrated with your already existing administrative or behavioral health data, you can move with more agility through this trying and deadly time. It is time to reach for the help it can give.