Is Your HMIS Prepared For Coordinated Assessment?

13 August 2014 Erica Harrison Comments Off on Is Your HMIS Prepared For Coordinated Assessment? News

How to Prepare your HMIS for Coordinated Assessment and other HUD Requirements

Coordinated Assessment: What Will It Mean to CoCs Nationwide?
Coordinated Assessment* is a revolutionary shift in homelessness assistance, but it is just the first stage of a larger change. It is the beginning of an interlacing of systems that will create a unified force to address the antecedents of homelessness, homelessness itself, and promote strategies for self-sufficiency.

With Coordinated Assessment, persons in need of assistance will no longer need to knock on multiple doors of numerous service providers in search of relief. Instead, they will be presented with one door where they can be assessed once, and then further directed through a collaborative system. This means fewer phone calls, fewer screenings, and more answers for the clients. Coordinated Assessment also benefits the providers for the same reasons: less time spent screening clients, managing waitlists, and searching for housing availability. More importantly, with easier service provision comes better client-caseworker rapport, which builds trust and benefits all parties involved.

HMIS Data Entry

Is Your HMIS Ready for Coordinated Assessment?

While the benefits of Coordinated Assessment are boundless, there will be, without a doubt, obstacles to implementation – a primary one being preparing your HMIS. A fully operational HMIS database is absolutely imperative before launching Coordinated Assessment. If Coordinated Assessment data collection begins without a fully operational HMIS, CoCs run the risk of creating gaps in tracking inventory, waitlists, and the collection of assessment data. This in turn will translate into inaccurate reporting to HUD, which will ultimately lead to reduced funding for the CoC. Below are guidelines you can use to determine whether your HMIS is up to the challenges posed by Coordinated Assessment:

Real-Time Tracking

HMIS must be able to track all data collected by intake and assessment forms, housing inventory (beds and units), waitlists, client/provider matches, provider guidelines, and case management evaluation tasks.

Sophisticated Real-Time Reporting

HMIS must have outcome reporting capabilities, including performance-based reports, that meet HUD standards for HEARTH-funded projects. It must also be able to generate evaluation data on the HMIS itself, as well as report on services provided and all other homelessness assistance variables. All report functions must be able to be conducted in real-time.

Real-Time Intake, Assessment, & Referral

HMIS must have functionality that can allocate the correct and necessary resources to individuals and families in ways that meet their needs. This information must be automated in order to generate referrals in real-time. All intake and assessment information must be entered in real-time, and the HMIS must be able to support multiple users at the same time while still maintaining its real-time functionality.

HUD-Compliant Data Collection

All screens (Intake, Profile, Assessment, Program Enrollment, etc.) must adhere to the 2014 HMIS Data Standards. This means they must include changes to the Universal Data Elements, Program-Specific Data Elements, and must also incorporate the most up to date Metadata Elements. All data collection functionality must be tailored in order for the HMIS to be able to meet all HUD guidelines for reporting.””

Secure Data Sharing

HMIS must have sophisticated sharing capabilities that adhere to both security and client privacy, including HIPAA regulations and all state/local privacy laws. All partnering agencies must have access to the shared data (in accordance with client privacy agreements), and the HMIS must be programmed to ensure compliance client consent laws.”

Real-Time Household Management & Batch Entry Functionality

HMIS must be able to track households from entry to exit, as well as whether households had re-entered services/programs within a set period of time

Ability To Coincide With Disparate Systems Without Duplicate Client Entry

Parallel systems must be able to be merged to import/export data, and the HMIS must support data collection for all populations, including youth and victims of domestic violence.

Maintained by a Highly Capable Technical Support Staff

All HMIS end users must be trained prior to launch of Coordinated Assessment, as well as be trained on a continuous basis post-implementation. The HMIS system must be protected by secure backup procedures, data recovery plans, and data security measures. In addition to having exceptional Information Technology expertise, the HMIS support staff must be well versed in all HUD requirements as they pertain to HMIS and HEARTH.”

Why is a Sophisticated HMIS Necessary for Coordinated Assessment?

Data is the heart and soul of homelessness assistance – without a powerful data collection system, there is no way to measure outcomes or determine client need. The experts at buildingchanges.org list the following specific benefits of accurate data collection and reporting:

  • Coordinate housing services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness or facing a housing crisis
  • Improve the programs and services available to residents experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis
  • Improve access to services for all county homeless and at-risk populations, including high-need populations
  • Reduce inefficiencies and duplication of services within the community
  • Ensure clients receive the amount and type of services that “best fits” their needs and preferences
  • Advocate for policies and legislation that will support efforts to end homelessness in a county
  • Illuminate the extent and the nature of homelessness
  • Evaluate performance and progress toward community benchmarks

Preparing your HMIS may seem an overwhelming task. However, if the functionality of your HMIS is founded upon the concept of the user-experience, then the requirements above are not quite as daunting. The key is usability – an HMIS system that is intuitive and easy to use will propel your CoC through the implementation of Coordinated Assessment.

Even once the frenzy of Coordinated Assessment is over, however, HUD requirements will continue to change. The landscape of homelessness assistance is dynamic, and CoCs will continue to need to adapt. This is why the employment of a sophisticated and scalable HMIS is so vital to the longevity of a CoC’s success, and therefore, its importance should not be underplayed. Your HMIS is your source of data, which means that it is your only chance to display your CoC’s hard-earned progress. Invest in your success.

*For the purposes of this article, ‘Coordinated Assessment’ can be used interchangeably with ‘Centralized Intake’ and ‘Coordinated Entry’.

The information in this article was primarily derived and condensed from information provided in the Coordinated Entry Toolkit, published by buildingchanges.org

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