Integrated Eligibility System Updates

Taking It on the Road

CENTRAL FALLS – Longtime DHS Eligibility Technician Lisa Vingi was armed with paper applications, her laptop, a calculator and more.

Photo of a ribbon

With the difficulties of the RI Bridges system, DHS leadership brainstormed recently about additional ways to help the families participating in the Starting RIght Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). In September, it deployed eligibility technicians out to CCAP provider sites.

Photo of Pawtucket New Call Center

The mobile ETs participating in the pilot went to multiple locations during the week of September 18 in the wee hours of the morning, 7a.m. to 10 a.m., and late in the afternoons, 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The times purposely coordinated with drop off and pick   up times.

“We’re so glad you’re here,” said Director Tanya Ouellette-Pierce, of the Children’s Workshop Central Falls. “Families just keep taking time out of work to go to DHS, or calling out and getting in trouble. This is fabulous.”

This center on Hunt Street is home to nearly 230 kids ages 6-weeks-old to 13-years-old. Of those, 218 get subsidies from DHS. A sign at its entrance reads: Through These Doors, Pass the Greatest Children in the World.

Photo of a ribbon

Cassandra Smith, of Pawtucket, needed help to get her 4-year-old Abriel back enrolled in child care. Vingi helped the mother of two children upload the necessary employment paperwork needed for the subsidy, and also her medical insurance, updated her address and discussed child support.

“I was going to come down [to a DHS regional family center], and then I heard about them being here,” Smith said. “I want to get him back in as soon as possible because as you can see, he is shy.”

Abriel avoided eye contact in the beginning, and instead used the time to color penguins. Mom stopped briefly to ask him to count the crayons he kept pulling out of the basket. Abriel loosened up just enough to give a smile towards the end.

CRANSTON – The State continues to strive for the modern, efficient system envisioned for Rhode Island, and over the last few months have worked with Deloitte to make two releases per month.

Maintenance and Operations releases focus on system stability through fixes to existing software bugs and data issues. Development releases focus on system stability, but also make changes to improve the user experience, support worker productivity, add necessary external interfaces, include additional notices or changes to existing notices, and other functionality needed for business operations.

A freeze to significant development changes will occur during HealthSourceRI’s open enrollment period from November 1 to December 31. The schedule of releases for the first quarter of 2018 is still being coordinated.

Here are 10 key improvements made in the September release:

⊡ DCYF Case Processing: DCYF case transitions from Medicaid to DCYF-Medicaid can be performed more efficiently to allow foster care children to begin their DCYF Medicaid at the start of the following month instead of having to wait until the month following with a 1-month gap.

⊡ Navigators to Manually ID Proof: Functionality was added to allow navigators to do ID proofing for their customers, which should significantly reduce calls to the contact center for manual ID proofing.

⊡ Customer Portal Improvements: Users can more efficiently navigate the portal because of a series of changes including clearer instructions, help text and validation messages.

⊡ New LTSS Notice: LTSS Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) providers will benefit from receiving a new notice informing them of their patients’ eligibility and co-pay amount.

⊡ SNAP Households: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) household group composition logic was updated so that all mandatory members are included in the household.

⊡ LTSS –SSI Case Processing: Eligibility for Long-Term Care Support & Services (LTSS) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) assistance requests can now be processed independently of each other. Customers can have dual Medicaid eligibility –SSI and LTSS. Together they are technically considered one program, but for eligibility purposed, they are considered separately. Workers now work in two flows, and can still view all the information and case notes in both.

⊡ Medicaid Termination Reconciliation Efforts: These are system improvements to continue to reduce the number of discrepancies between the RI Bridges system and the MMIS system, which handles Medicaid billing. These changes will help the State properly terminate individuals who are no longer eligible, appropriately reflect their status in both systems and reduce the workload for employees. Within the changes, customers who are above the Medicaid income limit will receive a notice asking for additional income documentation.

⊡ CCAP Improvements:

    • a) Pre-note automation: This automation improves the process when the provider agrees to direct deposit over paper checks by eliminating manual steps.
    • b) Users can renew for all programs if the dates for recertification are aligned.
    • c) Worker Portal enhancements were implemented so staff can forbid enrollments to closed providers, open providers witha new provider number and send a notification to providers for attendance submission.

⊡ Rite Share Notices: Changes to templates were made to make Rite Share notices clearer, consistent and standardized.

⊡ LTSS Application Screen: Improvements are being made to make the process better for this complex request for benefits. Users can now use the LTSS Complete Application screen more efficiently because they can update the verification status of 30 fields using a single drop down menu.

DHS Call Center: Working Together is Success

PAWTUCKET, RI -- Pristine sky-blue walls are the first indication you are somewhere new, and welcomed.
Photo a new leadership group.

The RI Department of Human Services Call Center, tucked inside our Pawtucket office, is a space recently created so all  of  its staff can collaborate and learn from each other under the same roof for the first time.

That spirit is reinforced in the front entrance with the decal, “Teamwork: Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Photo of a ribbon

A ribbon cutting complete with Governor Raimondo’s giant, golden scissors was held Wednesday, August 30th to make it official, although staff moved in two weeks prior. The oversized orange and blue bow didn’t stand a chance to the shears.

The remodeled area is tangible proof that DHS and other State leaders are committed to improving the lives of Rhode Islanders who need us, and providing the support and technology needed for our staff to help them.

“As I met many of you over the past few weeks, you have heard me talk about the work that we have to do is hard but that I feel very confident that we are going to get through it and that we are going to get better and the only way we are going to do that is together,” DHS Director Hawkins said at the ceremony for staff. “This is to really acknowledge all of the work that, especially the call center, have done… I’ve just seen staff demonstrate unbelievable compassion and patience and perseverance on behalf of our customers.“

While emphasizing we aren’t where we want to be yet, she pointed to the progress that has been made.

In the first three weeks of August, the average wait on the phone has been 1 hour, 16 minutes in August – with two days having averages of 36 and 38 minutes. Though complex programs continue to have longer waits, overall it is a great improvement over the three and four hour waits from earlier this year. Some more complex programs have much longer waits, but the consistent averages earlier this year and last year were three and four hours.
Photo of Pawtucket New Call Center

Previously, there were as few as 5 call center staff. Since the leadership’s decision to hire more to help with the backlog and system defects, there are 34 eligibility technicians, a senior case manager and at least three supervisors. The supervisors are now able to give consistent information, clearer expectations and uniform instructions. The staff, who handle just over 8,000 calls per week, are also now able to learn from each other and help each other when need be. Training is also easier as well as more oversight and accountability.

“It’s good to be here for a positive reason,” said former acting director and now Secretary Eric Beane, of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “… There are certain types of public service that are really obvious, like a firefighter rushes to a fire. You also do an important public service. We know that there are hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders who rely on the work you do to get access to get food for their families, to medical benefits and to take care of their urgent needs. Let’s not lose sight of that.”

As a reminder, this is what community member can expect our team to do when people call 1-855-MY-RIDHS:

  • New applications (only with scanned, signed and viewable application)
  • Recertifications
  • Interims
  • Change reporting
  • Determine eligibility
  • Phone interviews
  • Verification requests and processing
  • Benefit status
  • General Information
  • Help with notices

Those calling in can also use our automated service to check an EBT balance, office hours or benefit status, report a lost or stolen EBT card and confirm an upcoming appointment. It is the State’s plan in the future to further enhance the automated functions.

Director Hawkins and Associate Director Kim Brito remarked the new call center was also a team effort. Special thanks went to the entire DHS leadership team including Brito, Celia Blue and Maureen Donnelly; Katherine Herbst and the call center supervisors; Secretary Beane; and Mike Lombardi, Robert Pelletier and John Ryan, who are all from Department of Administration.