Integrated Eligibility System Updates

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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.