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Sonoma County to Expand Award-Winning Solution With Federal Dollars

The local government aims to do more with its Accessing Coordinated Care and Empowering Self-Sufficiency initiative (ACCESS Sonoma) hub, using federal monies.

With federal funding, a Northern California county will do more with an award-winning health program designed to be duplicated by other governments.

The county of Sonoma will expand its Accessing Coordinated Care and Empowering Self-Sufficiency initiative (ACCESS Sonoma) with $1.6 million that was secured for it by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson as part of H.R. 2471, the Funding For The People Act, signed March 15 by President Biden.

“I was proud to secure $1.6 million to help Sonoma County expand this program, respond to disasters and provide critical services like housing, mental and behavioral health, and substance use screening,” Thompson said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Sonoma County officials to ensure that this program reaches the people who need it the most.”

The “multi-disciplinary team model will empower health care and service providers to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable residents including transitional-aged youth,” County District 2 Supervisor David Rabbitt said, also in a statement.

Pre-work is already underway, Carolyn Staats, Sonoma County’s inaugural director of innovation, told Industry Insider. The longtime county executive was IT director for the initiative, which won the 2019 Advantage Award from IBM Watson Health, in the Consumer/Patient Outreach and Communications category; two awards from the National Association of Counties including its 2019 Achievement Award in the area of health, for improving its service; and the Financial Times’ Intelligent Business award for public sector.

“It’s been a long road, but we’ve had success with each phase. What’s great about this one is we have the federal government’s attention; they’ll be watching this one,” Staats told Industry Insider.

The enterprise-level, cloud-based data hub also received earmarked funding for continued development from the U.S. House of Representatives in July. It uses the IBM Watson Care Manager and IBM Health and Human Services Connect 360 tools and SimpliGov process automation systems, and is based on a San Diego County initiative that created a tool to promote access for community partners. The system is also mobile-friendly and employs SimpliGov forms enabling data to be captured and used in a cloud-based app aggregating several IBM services.

What’s next, Staats said, is to expand the reach of the hub’s technology with transitional-age youth – making it available via an app and building out more on the back end for a care plan with that cohort. The expansion should make more care plan assessments available and empower more piloting with community-based organizations. Officials planned the ACCESS solution with more than one use case in mind, and Orange County is among those utilizing its architecture. Currently, Harris County, Texas, and the state of South Dakota are in the contracting phase for the solution as well.

“We have built the enabling technology from the beginning with the idea of collaborating across government entities,” Staats said. “We’ve actually proven that now, because it’s been implemented in Orange County and San Diego County is running the back end.”
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.