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Md. social services to get $200M technology upgrade

Sam Malhotra, Gov. Larry Hogan's chief of staff and former secretary of the Department of Human Resources, speaks as Hogan looks on. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Sam Malhotra, Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff and former secretary of the Department of Human Resources, speaks Thursday as Hogan looks on. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s social services agencies are in line for a $200 million technology upgrade that Gov. Larry Hogan said will improve the delivery of services to the state’s most vulnerable residents and their families.

The program, called Maryland Total Human-services Integrated Network or MD THINK — is billed as the first of its kind in the nation. It’s a cloud-based program that will allow caseworkers in multiple agencies to not only provide services in the field but to see in real time what other agencies are also doing on behalf of the same child or family. Hogan, at the same news conference, also announced an executive order creating a commission to study an approach to ending multigenerational poverty.

Hogan said the real-time sharing of information across state agencies “will literally save lives.”

Sam Malhotra, Hogan’s current chief of staff who formerly oversaw the Department of Human Resources, said the need for an upgrade in technology became apparent as agencies attempted to improve how they deliver services.

Malhotra said that some agencies were using antiquated technology including green phosphorus computer monitors.

“I thought those left town when MC Hammer left town,” Malhotra told reporters.

The new system under development will connect social services agencies, including the Departments of Human Resources, Mental Health and Hygiene, and Juvenile Services. Caseworkers will be able to access data and update information in real time from tablets and smartphones.

“The concept is to provide a lot better service,” Hogan said, saying the program would be the first of its kind in the country.

Officials said the new program would provide more efficient service by allowing agencies who often operate in a silo despite sharing clients to see the full range of state government interactions with any particular client.

“Imagine this: A family that is on public assistance or some services that an agency provides is being touched by various different departments — the one department and the other not knowing what services are being provided,” Malhotra said. “A lot of times these services are redundant. So, the idea is to provide these wrap-around services in such a way that the effectiveness of what we provide is higher than it is today.”

Additionally, Hogan announced the signing of an executive order creating a multi-agency commission that would study how to best link governmental services targeted for children as well as their parents.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will serve as chair of the commission.

The approach, called Two-Gen, has support from National Governor’s Association and such philanthropic entities as the Aspen Institute, Kellogg Foundation, and Annie E. Casey Foundation. Garrett, Allegany, and Montgomery counties have reported some success from implementing the policy, according to Hogan.

This commission will look at the potential benefits as well as the obstacles to this type of collaboration, in which the state provides services simultaneously for a family as a whole rather than for the adult and child separately, Hogan said.


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