REVIEWER: Manuel H. Moreno, Ph.D., director of research and evaluation services for Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, Service Integration Branch.

BACKGROUND: LA County has approximately 65,000 indigent adults receiving social and human services from multiple agencies. These services are supported through the county’s General Relief program, without state or federal support. Services must be delivered in the most cost-effective way.

PLATFORMS: Sun Solaris, Unix Server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The cost of services and participant engagement remained largely unknown because participants receive services from multiple county departments. Compounding the challenge is the fact that nearly 60 percent of the indigent adults in the program are homeless. Confidentiality requirements previously prevented data sharing among county agencies. A lack of information on General Relief participants resulted from this situation, particularly among policymakers in the health, social services and public safety agencies. Policymakers did not have access to the cost of services for recipients engaging with multiple service systems. Furthermore, lack of information made it difficult for policymakers to develop recommendations for creating more cost-effective service delivery. The lack of data on program participants hindered the county’s ability to make informed decisions on empirical evidence. To resolve the situation, the county created the Adult Linkages Project (ALP) to focus on indigent adults. ALP would provide new information on indigent adults’ service use patterns, gaps in usage and the extent of their service engagement before, during and after participation. ALP was the basis for interdepartmental coordination. The project explores how linking records between separate agencies benefits clients and the agencies providing services. Overall objectives of the ALP are to provide policymakers with evidence-based information to support enhancement of existing programs for indigent adults, make these services more cost-effective and advance social policymaking in the county.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SAS offered a solution that had both the advanced analytical capabilities needed and the data integration capacity to ensure data quality to support vast amounts of data from disparate sources. Using the SAS solution, the value of the data was not lost when it was de-identified for privacy restrictions.

STRENGTHS: The strength of SAS analytics was a key factor in our evaluation and choice. It was also very important that SAS offered a solution that creates a consistent data warehouse from information provided by eight agencies using a variety of technologies.

WEAKNESSES: SAS offers many capabilities in its data integration and analytics products that we don’t currently use. At some point these may be useful, but right now we have yet to grow into them.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The ALP team chose SAS data warehousing and analytics because none of the other technologies currently used in the county had the predictive analytics capabilities of SAS. The project uses approximately 100 variables and develops multiple regression models in SAS that control for these factors. Another element was ensuring data quality. DataFlux, a SAS company, is a leader in data quality and made the SAS choice easier. DataFlux is especially important in the process of de-identifying program data.

DELIVERABLES: ALP data is used to design new strategies and cost-effective services for indigent adults. The project is especially valuable in identifying duplicative services from different departments, resulting in cost avoidance, cost savings and service enhancements. When future programs are implemented, ALP will provide a baseline that can be used to predict costs and savings associated with a new program. Another value of integrating data is the ability to create policy around how services are delivered, such as co-located services. County staff used the ALP to develop a cost benefit analysis showing the effectiveness of a pilot project providing rental subsidies to homeless General Relief participants. The report demonstrated that in five years, the project may save between $5.4 million and $10.3 million in cost offsets by 2012. Expected savings can be reinvested in the program, creating additional savings and helping more people.

VENDOR SUPPORT: County analysts worked very closely with SAS and Qualex Consulting Services, a SAS business partner, to build an analytical data warehouse with data from numerous agencies. The project was structured around a tight partnership yielding a solution that ensures data quality and employs advanced analytics.

DOCUMENTATION: SAS documentation is effective and thorough. There are numerous resources from SAS, as well as from other sources, that we can employ. Because SAS is popular, there are also many independent Web sites, chat rooms, blogs, user groups, books, educational offerings and other useful tools.

SAS Data Integration Server

SAS Institute

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Cary, NC 27513

(919) 677-8000

www.sas.com

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