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State Health Departments Seek Millions to Continue IT Modernizations

The funding sought would enable the California departments of Public Health and Social Services to move ahead with significant technology work with the potential for statewide impact.

The California Capitol building at night seen through tree branches.
With less than a month before lawmakers must approve a state budget, two state health departments seek millions in funding for ongoing IT projects.

In so-called “spring finance letters” from California Department of Finance (DOF) leadership to the chairs of state Senate and Assembly budget committees, the California departments of Public Health (CDPH) and Social Services (DSS) seek more than $150 million in increases along with other funding to continue technology modernizations. The letters typically reflect certain changes to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s FY 2023-2024 budget proposal. Newsom released the May Revision to that budget May 12. Per the state constitution, a new state budget must clear the statehouse by June 15, about two weeks before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. According to Newsom’s May Revision, the two departments’ budgets would each change from his original January budget proposal. CDPH’s total budget would decline nearly 2.9 percent, from about $2.21 billion to about $2.15 billion, with rounding. But DSS’ budget would rise more than 14.2 percent, from about $18.59 billion to about $21.25 billion, with rounding. Among the takeaways:

  • DSS seeks an increase of $83.4 million “one-time” and a one-time increase in reimbursements of nearly $1.2 million as well as a $79.2 million one-time increase, all “to support continued project development costs” of the Child Welfare Services-California Automated Response and Engagement System (CWS-CARES) Project. It also requests the amendment of provisional language to let DOF “augment the project’s expenditure authority” by $36.5 million, $18.3 of that from the General Fund “should project activities accelerate.” (All numbers are rounded.) CWS-CARES is the replacement for the state’s “highly distributed, outdated Child Welfare System-Case Management System (CWS-CMS), which is legacy. It is aimed at improving the state’s service to at-risk children and delivers an “automated child welfare system,” according to Child Welfare Digital Services, with capabilities including mobile and web-based tech to support existing and future business needs of counties and the state.
  • Expenditure of the $83.4 million is contingent on DOF and the California Department of Technology (CDT) approving project documents. According to the letter, the amount may be “augmented” by up to $18.3 million for “project activities related to the implementation and data infrastructure contracts” once approved by DOF and CDT. The augmentation can only support the acceleration of “planned project activities” — not to increase the total cost of the project. Project-related activities may include “necessary personal services expenditures, interagency agreements, and contracts.” However, DSS must, in coordination with the other entities involved in CWS-CARES, provide monthly status reports to the Legislature — including contracts — and hold a regular quarterly forum to update stakeholders and legislative staffers on areas including progress, implementation, expenditures and “significant issues and risks.”
  • DSS seeks an increase of $25 million in one-time funding, “to be available over two years” starting July 1 “for the development of a bi-directional interface” between the California Statewide Automated Welfare System (CalSAWS) and CWS-CARES. CalSAWS is an “automated welfare business process,” according to DSS, that will serve all of the state’s 58 counties by this year. Its implementation will merge “three county-level consortia welfare systems” and support six core programs including California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or CalFresh, and Medi-Cal. The system will take on functions including information and case management, benefit delivery and eligibility determination.
  • CDPH requests the amendment of provisional language to provide nearly $15.9 million in one-time funding for “Information Technology, Data Science and Informatics Framework for a 21st Century Public Health System.” This would be contingent “upon approval of enterprise planning and strategy documents.” The funding would represent an augmentation on top of about $18.1 million appropriated for “encumbrance or expenditure” until June 30, 2025, for the system. The ability to spend the money is contingent on CDT and the California Health and Human Services Agency approving enterprise planning and strategy documents. CDT must also approve Project Approval Lifecycle documents. DOF approval appears to be needed and it will consider “verified satisfactory progress associated with initiative planning.” The framework would represent a “modernization of public health information technology infrastructure and systems, training and upskilling, and expanded workforce pipeline,” according to a budget change proposal submitted last year.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.