More than a year ago, the Arkansas Department of Human Services began developing electronic tools to track such things as how quickly it investigates reports of abuse of elderly or disabled people and the types of child maltreatment reports it receives.
On Friday, the department launched a new section of its website making versions of those tracking tools available to the public.
"These are not reports for the public on various things," department Director Cindy Gillespie said. "They're our management tools."
The site, at performance.dhs.arkansas.gov, includes interactive dashboards with information on Adult Protective Services cases, child maltreatment reports, inspections of child care providers, child care license applications, Freedom of Information Act requests and appeals of department decisions by Medicaid recipients and providers.
The department is working on several other dashboards that it plans to add over the next several months, Gillespie said.
The data are updated daily.
One dashboard shows that the department's Division of Children and Family Services was assigned to investigate 257 cases of child abuse and 222 cases of neglect during the first week of March.
The Performance Center section of the website will also include other types of reports, including those required by federal or state law.
"At the end of the day, it's taxpayer money, and we want to be accountable for doing the job well, or if we're not doing it well, then somebody can see that," department spokesman Amy Webb said.
The dashboards were created with the help of Deloitte Consulting, which in 2017 won a contract to provide support for the more than 200 software applications used by the department.
Deloitte helped the department develop a tool to track Adult Protective Services investigations that hadn't been completed within the 60 days required under state law. From a peak of almost 9,000 overdue cases in December 2017, the backlog had fallen to 146 as of Thursday.
The tracking effort then spread to other areas of the department.
On the walls of a training room at the department's headquarters, officials use markers to map out the process the department uses for tasks such as processing applications for child care licenses or investigating complaints.
Officials then identify what information they need to track how efficiently the tasks are being handled.
Development of the initial set of dashboards through the Deloitte contract cost about $2 million last year, said Jeff Dean, the department's chief information officer.
The project is likely to cost about the same amount each year over the next few years as more dashboards are developed, he said.
The dashboards don't yet provide information about the department's performance in some areas.
For instance, the tool for tracking child maltreatment complaints notes that, in severe cases, state law requires the victim must be interviewed within 24 hours. But the tool doesn't say how often investigators met that benchmark.
Webb said a dashboard on investigation timeliness is in development and will be published as soon as it's ready.
Kevin De Liban, an attorney with Jonesboro-based Legal Aid of Arkansas, said it's "too early to say" if the information on the site will be helpful in holding the department accountable.
He said he'd like for the site to include copies of hearing officers' decisions in cases affecting Medicaid recipients' benefits, with information on the recipients' identity redacted.
He noted that a federal regulation requires the public to have access to the decisions.
Brooke Edwards, a spokesman for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said her group would also like to see information on Medicaid enrollment and coverage terminations by county and the race and age of the recipient.
In an email, Webb said health privacy concerns limit the details the department releases about coverage terminations.
She said appeals decisions are "more about case facts," rather than processes. Posting them on the website "could be something we do in the future," she said.
Metro on 03/09/2019
Print Headline: Website features tracking at state DHS; public can view data dashboards