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State Hospitals Embeds IT in New Solutions

The California Department of Hospitals is in procurement for an Electronic Health Record system and is working to release a Jail-Based Competency Treatment application for patients deemed incompetent to stand trial.

A building mostly covered with windows.
Fast Facts

Leadership: California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) Director Stephanie Clendenin is a veteran of state service who was appointed to her current role by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 15, 2019. She was the department’s chief deputy director from 2015-2018; and before joining DSH, held multiple positions at the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) including serving as its chief deputy director from 2011-2015 and as acting director from 2011-2012. Clendenin’s time at the state dates at least to 2006, when she joined OSHPD as a staff services manager II in its Healthcare Workforce and Community Development Division. DSH’s chief information officer is Chad Corrin, a nearly 20-year state employee who was named CIO in September 2022 after having served as DSH’s chief technology officer since March 2020. Corrin’s time at DSH dates to October 2005, when he joined the department as a senior software engineer, going on to take an IT manager role in January 2019. “My focus is not on technology for technology’s sake, but rather on going back to why the business needs IT in the first place,” Corrin told Industry Insider in May 2022 in a One-on-One interview as CTO, adding: “My philosophy is that the primary purpose of IT should be to use technology as a tool to drive forward the goals of the business as our primary way to bring value.”

Budget: $3.4 billion according to the enacted 2023-2024 fiscal year state budget, an increase of roughly 12 percent from $3.1 billion in FY 2022-23. (All numbers are rounded.)

Total staff: As of Aug. 1, DSH has 11,564 staff. Of those, 222 are IT positions that support mission-critical tech at its Sacramento headquarters and five hospitals across the state, in Atascadero, Coalinga, Napa, as well as at Patton in San Bernardino County and at Metropolitan in Los Angeles County.

The California Department of State Hospitals is the largest system of inpatient mental health hospitals in the nation, its director says in her message to those who visit the department website. It cares for more than 12,000 of the most seriously mentally ill — a higher number than in any other state — and has on any given day roughly 6,500 patients in its hospitals and jail-based competency treatment programs in six of the state’s 58 counties. DSH also oversees more than 650 people in conditional release and discharges nearly 6,000 patients a year. DSH also maintains its own police academy, training officers on law enforcement techniques in working with the mentally ill. It works with state community colleges to train psychiatric technicians, many of whom go on to work in state hospitals; and it partners with the University of California on forensic fellowships for psychiatrists.

The last three years have seen DSH’s Technology Services Division (TSD) work to embed IT in nearly all new business solutions, deploying automation technologies like robotic process automation and modernizing crucial core infrastructure. The division also enabled rapid deployment of tech to meet the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic including remote work; deployed new technologies to improve waitlist efficiencies; and prepared for the upcoming Electronic Health Record (EHR) initiative. In an effort to meet the global rise in cyber attacks, division response teams have made foundational security tooling a key focus.

Department technologists have stood up new telework capabilities and remote access platforms; developed and deployed modern cloud-based apps; and implemented new data platforms to facilitate state and local collaboration around treatment of patients who are incompetent to stand trial (IST). TSD has also successfully implemented major security solutions focused on zero trust remote access, email encryption, data categorization and protection. It has refreshed and modernized major on-prem infrastructure; improved the availability and efficiency of wide area network and cloud resources; and identified and remediated cyber asset attack surfaces, and the overall maturity of IT service delivery platforms, with modern cloud-based tools.

The department declined to discuss specific future procurements in an email exchange with Industry Insider — California, but indicated TSD and its business partners will be focusing on:

  • Furthering its business capabilities to offer timely access to the restoration of competence services for IST patients committed to DSH by the court for treatment. DSH is working to release the Jail-Based Competency Treatment application, a modern cloud-based solution designed to maximize the placement options for IST patients. The initiative is now underway, the department said, in close partnership with Microsoft via its PowerApps cloud-based platform.
  • DSH will work closely in coming months with state and local partners and vendors on advancing forensic treatment technologies.
  • State budgets including the 2023-24 FY budget have, the department told Industry Insider via email, made notable investments in the staff, clinical prep and foundational tech needed for DSH’s upcoming Continuum EHR system.
Other IT highlights this year include the deployment in June of the Early Access and Stabilization Services (EASS) application, underpinned by a modern cloud-based platform. The app, the department said, reflects its commitment to partnering directly with counties and investing in the timely access to restoration of competency services for IST patients. And, as its Continuum HER project ramps up, TSD has created a senior-level Enterprise Architecture team comprising technologists who have made themselves instrumental in the development and deployment of these types of technologies, and can work hand-in-hand with business and the public sector.

DSH is in procurement now on an EHR system; it released a solicitation May 4, which remains publicly available on the State of California Cal eProcure website. DSH is using a challenge-based procurement process, the department told Industry Insider, indicating this lets it pick the vendor that meets its requirements most closely. The procurement is expected to last roughly a year; the Continuum EHR project team is now focused on the remaining planning and foundational technology preparation activities needed to “ensure a smooth and successful implementation of the EHR solution upon vendor selection, and contract award,” the department said.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.