Information Technology & Social Services: Tracking Clients, Treatment, and Compliance

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Information Technology & Social Services: Tracking Clients, Treatment, and Compliance

Information Technology & Social Services: Tracking Clients, Treatment, and Compliance

Andree Mattix, director of social services at Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office, discusses how a customized technology application helps her staff track data and clients in the D.A.'s diversion, victim-witness, and domestic violence programs.

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ROBERT V. WOLF:  Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation, and today’s New Thinking podcast is focusing on technology, specifically how the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office in New Orleans uses technology to implement programming and track data. With me on the phone is Andree Mattix, director of social services at Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office. Thanks for joining me today.

ANDREE MATTIX:  Thank you for having me, Robert.

WOLF:  I understand that a few years ago you found out about the data management systems that our technology team here at the Center for Court Innovation developed for several of our programs, and you asked our technology experts to help you guys adapt the system for your own programming. So I thought maybe you could give a little background. What is your programming like and what kind of technology were you looking for?

MATTIX:  I came into the District Attorney’s Office shortly after this particular district attorney took office, which was at the end of 2008, and when we came into our offices—this was post-hurricane Katrina—we really didn’t have an office at that time. We were trying to put our office building back together and trying to figure out what the previous administration had, didn’t have. And one of the things that I found in my divisions, which are victim witness, diversion, and domestic violence, was that there was no way of tracking data. There was no database at all. No technology was being used, it was all paper and pencil files and I had come from a world where that was just not okay. So I had done a lot of reporting to the federal government with the drug court program I was with and I knew that we were going to be looking at expanding all of our programming, and that we would need a way to track our data for programming purposes, but also for funder purposes and for anything that we would need in the future, as well as what we were doing right now. So that’s when I started researching possible ways that we could do that. We also had no money to do it. I started looking into Red Hook’s system so I reached out to CCI and I said, you know, is that something we could possibly get in on?  So we figured out a way that we could do it for very little money.

WOLF:  So that was the system that was being used at the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York, which our team here at the Center for Court Innovation helped design. So they adapted that program for you?

MATTIX:  They did. They were able to work with me and my staff. We went back and forth a lot about what parts of that program would be really good for us, and what parts of the program weren’t really necessary. We were able to take some things out and they were able to extract New York’s data, an allow for us some new data fields that we would need, and create a system that I was able to keep separate for each of the three programs, but still was pretty much the same system. But I had special things that were needed in each one and CCI was really good about coming in and working with me about the special needs for the different programs while still keeping it similar, and it wasn’t a huge undertaking to create, you know, three different programs.

WOLF: Maybe you can give me a sense of what the program does for you that you find most helpful?

MATTIX:  Probably the intake component, especially with my diversion group, is definitely the most utilized for sure, and diversion uses all aspects of the program. The most, I would say, without question. The other two programs, victim witness and domestic violence use it for tracking out clients, tracking our client contacts, and for establishing the demographic information and being able to kind of pull that out when I need to report to different people about what’s going on with the system and, you know, funders as well as to city council, the mayor, governor’s office, legislature, anybody who needs to know how many victims are we serving, what’s the domestic violence problem like in New Orleans. But they use it as well in somewhat the same capacity as diversion does, is that same information is entered so that we have a way to quickly find an individual, find their addresses, find their phone numbers, the case manager or the counselor having to actually be here.

WOLF:  And were there any challenge to bringing the technology into your work?

MATTIX:  Obviously there were some changes, but there were a lot of changes happening at the same time, so there was kind of a culture of change around here. So because of that it was a little easier. A lot of the staff coming in were a lot more friendly with technology than some of the longstanding people that had been around for awhile. So it still was a little bit teaching them, but it’s a fairly user-friendly program.

WOLF:  Did it help you track results, compliance?  Can you come up with figures and sort of summarize outcomes in that way?

MATTIX:  I can and it’s particularly useful with diversion because we do look at the number of people who successfully complete the program, as well as the people who do not complete the program. And then I have different tracks of that program, so we’re comparing one program to another on the outcomes. And then we’re able to take the successful completion, the information that we get from there to actually run recidivism through another, you know obviously it’s through a police computer, but we use the demographic information from JCA to be able to get the successful completion demographics to run the recidivism. So that’s been really helpful because we do have fairly low recidivism rates and we’re very excited about that, because we believe that shows that what we’re doing is working.

WOLF:  And just for our listeners, JCA stands for...

MATTIX:  Justice Center Application. It’s just you all’s name, not ours, and that’s what we call it.

WOLF:  Are there any challenges around confidentiality?  Does it have to be - are the names blanked out, or is that not necessary?

MATTIX:  It’s not necessary because only the people in my division have access to the database, so the attorneys in the office don’t have access to my database. Secretaries in the office don’t have access to my database. Only the counselors and social workers under my three different divisions actually can access it, and they can’t - so for instance, victim witness can’t access diversion, and domestic violence can’t access victim witness, and that’s done for the sake of confidentiality.

WOLF:  Is that all password protected?  Is that how it works?

MATTIX:  It is, and it actually prompts us to change our password very frequently. It just gets challenging to keep thinking of new ones, but I think everyone’s kind of got a system now.

WOLF:  The whole world has to come up with new passwords all the time.

MATTIX:  Yeah, but there are so many everywhere, so we all know to keep track.

WOLF:  So just overall, how has technology improved your work?  I mean does it save you time?  Does it save money?  Has it allowed you to know certain things, or measure certain things that you couldn’t do very easily before?

MATTIX:  Absolutely. There is no - I can’t even imagine us being able to do the volume of work that we do without this system. You know, when I first came in, we only had 200 people in diversion and now we have almost 1,000 people in diversion. So being able to do statistics on 200 people is a lot different than on almost 1,000 people. So being able to get that data very quickly, at our fingertips, has just been critical to being able to do our quarterly reports, as well as being able to provide just anyone in the community with information about our program. And the same thing for victim witness, and domestic violence. Our victim witness program is over 2,000 people at any given time. There’s just simply no way to do that by hand.

WOLF:  And just to give me a sense of what your diversion program is like, who are the clients that you have?  What are they being asked to do and what are the charges that they had been facing?

MATTIX:  We have two tracks of diversion. Our track one program is designed for property offenders. It is for people who have really never been in trouble before. They have to pay restitution, their restitution can’t be over 1000 dollars. They are with us, usually, from nine to 12 months, and they typically cannot have substance abuse or mental health problems to be in track one. They can still be in diversion, but they have to move to track two, and track two is - and these are all felony offenses, that’s all we deal with. We don’t deal with misdemeanors in my diversion program. So track two is primarily substance abuse related offenses, and it is a two year program. They come in, they work with their counselors. I have master’s level counselors and social workers. We provide individual case management counseling, as well as we do group counseling four days a week in our office. So some clients come to those groups, some clients go to outside groups, some clients are in residential treatment. It really just kind of depends on the individual’s needs. But they come in, we do an assessment, and part of that assessment is built into JCA so we’re able to ask those questions and get that information up front while we’re doing that intake, so that we can kind of assess where we’re going to need to send this person, what is this person going to need to be successful in the program. We will help them with employment, with school, anything that is going to help them stay on the right track. And so JCA is going to be logging their drug tests, it’s going to be - we have them for drug tests too. It’s going to be logging each of the individual visits, and it’s also when they come for group counseling, that’ll be logged in there as well.

WOLF:  Wow, so it’s really keeping track of a lot of clients who, it sounds like, are involved in a lot of different possible treatment options.

MATTIX:  Oh yeah. Our program is pretty extensive.

WOLF: Well thank you very much. I think you’ve given a clear picture of how the Justice Center Application works in your office, and how you’ve adapted it to your particular needs, there at the Orleans Parrish District Attorney’s office.

MATTIX:  Thank you for giving me a chance to speak with you about it.

ROB WOLF:  I’ve been talking with Andree Mattix, director of social services at Orleans Parrish District Attorney’s Office about their technology application that they use to track their participants in their various social service programs. I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To listen to other New Thinking podcasts, please visit our website at www.courtinnovation.org. You can also listen to our podcasts on iTunes. Thanks for listening.

(October 2013)

 

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