Winona County is hoping some new technology will help streamline services and save taxpayers millions.
About half of all Winona residents access some sort of service in the county -- anything from income to veteran support and child protection programming, but as more people are looking for services, county staff have to be as efficient as possible.
Providing child protection services in Winona County is a growing need but with a staff of just under a dozen people, the county’s Supervisor of Children and Family Services Sharon Summers said providing those services is getting harder.
“Right now, our staff, we're pretty maximized in terms of they really aren't going to be able to provide a good service,” said Summers.
Part of the problem is everything is done on paper and every department is different, but a new change would incorporate everyone on a single database.
“The child protection is a logical next step because this is where we see those real big efficiencies,” said Duane Herbert, Winona County administrator.
Child protection programming is the latest county service making the switch to an electronic program called Compass.
The program should be a time saver allowing case workers to do just about all the work electronically and out in the field while with clients.
“It's very inefficient, and people unfortunately fall through the cracks, and although we do an excellent job of preventing that, this is one more tool that makes it easier for us to make sure people get the services they need,” said Herbert.
While the program isn't available yet, Summers said she can already see the potential to assist more clients and help caseworkers do their jobs better.
“They will be more efficient,” said Summers. “They'll be able to devote more attention to the individual because they aren't going to have to worry as much about all the paperwork, and the families will be able to get their treatment plans more quickly.”
The company the county is working with to incorporate the Compass program will spend the next few weeks gathering input from staff members on what their needs are. The company will then build a program specifically tailored to the needs and it should be available by October.
So far, two county programs have incorporated the system.
Winona County will be the first in Minnesota to begin using this electronic workflow within child protection programming.
Herbert said it will take about three years to get every service onto the system, but it should save taxpayers millions of dollars over time.