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Ruth Ann Hanson, Chamber Area Director
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Crow Wing, Todd counties unveil preliminary results of redesign pilot project

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Minnesota and Brainerd chambers play role in facilitating study that could have statewide impact in delivery of county services

Officials of Crow Wing and Todd Counties today unveiled the innovative results of a pilot project aimed at delivering superior county services to customers in a cost-effective manner.

“Our mission in this project was to identify how we could achieve better customer outcomes in an environment of fewer resources,” said Tim Houle, Crow Wing County administrator. “We wanted to identify breakthrough ideas about how we could do business differently and be more effective and efficient.”

The results of the pilot study were revealed today during a news conference at the Staples City Hall before an audience of employees and elected officials of Crow Wing and Todd Counties as well as representatives of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Brainerd Lakes Chamber, Long Prairie Chamber of Commerce, Staples-Motley Area Chamber of Commerce, Initiative Foundation and Region Five Development Commission among others.

This pilot project was sponsored by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and funded through the Bush Foundation. The counties commissioned The Reardon Group to perform the study – a “Design Concept for Building a Foundation for Reform.”

Through a collaborative process over the past five months, the partners in this project intensely studied how to better serve customers receiving community services, especially those receiving multiple health and human services. The partners wanted to determine how counties can better serve their customers, in a respectful manner that leads them to self-sufficiency, through judicious use of taxpayer dollars.

Tim Reardon, of The Reardon Group, said this study affirmed the need for prevention and early intervention so that the need for more intensive and expensive interventions can be avoided.

Recommendations of the study include:
• Investing the right resources at the right intensity at the right time for the greatest impact.
• Giving discretion for care to the people who know the customer best. In a sense, empowering front-line workers with the ability to tailor services based on needs.
• Providing the necessary resources to meet customer needs.
• Improving communication and services, especially across program areas, in part through better use of technology.
• Identifying rules and regulations that are barriers to change.

Social services administrators in Crow Wing and Todd Counties intend to immediately implement changes in policy in their counties as a result of this study. Other changes will require legislative approval. The counties, together with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce as well as regional chambers of commerce, will help carry this message to Minnesota legislators.

“We are excited about the opportunities presented in this study for counties to deliver services under a more efficient and effective model,” said Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Chamber CEO. “To help clear the way for counties to achieve these goals, we are prepared to help inform lawmakers about the barriers that are in the way. We will ask lawmakers for their help in clearing the path to county reform.”

Early in this study, the partners placed a high priority on consulting groups of people through focus groups. Customers provided enlightening information about their experiences. County workers and contracted service providers gave their input and observations about the current system and how it could be improved. In addition, county officials researched data in their respective counties to understand patterns and how multiple services were delivered to customers.

Service areas studied included corrections, law enforcement, public health and social services.
This information was then analyzed by a team, a Design Lab, which used the information to formalize recommendations on how to improve the delivery of these county services to customers.

“This is our bold vision to improve the outcomes for our customers and our communities,” Reardon said. “Now we need the courageous leadership necessary to champion this change. We need to remove obstacles and implement a new design for county services. It is time to dismantle what doesn’t work and to pursue a new way of doing business .”

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