In January 2019, the management of the CONNECT system moved from the local level (at Lewis and Clark Public Health) to the state level, now housed within the Department of Public Health and Human Service’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Bureau. This transition was facilitated via upper managerial support, with a series of grants to provide a foundation of monetary support. The statewide model provides increased capacity and solid infrastructure for achieving the long-term goals of CONNECT.
The Bureau recently hired Alex Long as the new Statewide CONNECT Coordinator, who started her work on February 4. Long’s role is partnership development and support, system coordination and management. Additional staff will support Long in her new role, including former Lewis & Clark Public Health CONNECT Coordinator Megan Grotzke, who now works at DPHHS as a project manager.
This update will answer some lingering questions and outline which items require further planning and attention. It is important to note that this is a high-level perspective of current CONNECT activities. More in-depth information will be shared via blog post as details are established.
This has been a massive undertaking, and our attention has been focused on the immediate, critical items in the early stages of the transition. We want to be transparent and keep valued partners in the loop as this work moves forward. All important communications will be channeled through this platform until further notice, so please subscribe to this blog and share with partners who may want updates.
Noble Software Group is the software development company that is responsible for the management, maintenance and upgrades of the CONNECT system. This partnership is essential for the operation of the system. Currently, the Bureau is in the process of completing a series of important tasks to ensure a smooth transition to the Department and statewide expansion of the system.
First, it is critical that there is a contract in place between the State and Noble. This has been a major focus for CONNECT staff, and we are nearing completion of contract development. The state-level contract will eliminate the need for each participating county or region in Montana to hold an individual contract with Noble, as was the case in previous years. The Bureau is actively negotiating costs associated with services, primarily “user fees,” as part of the contract with Noble.
Also, Noble is in the process of developing a requested enhancement package including significant improvements for users (more logical, efficient functionalities, improved user capabilities, electronic signatures, etc.) and administrators (more intuitive onboarding and agency maintenance, automatic tracking of MOU expiration and annual agency updates, etc.). CONNECT program staff are working closely with Noble to ensure that these upgrades are completed in a timely fashion. Noble currently estimates a 3-4 month timeframe for completion of all requested system enhancements. If anything changes, this will be communicated immediately.
The CONNECT system is transitioning from siloed county systems to an interconnected statewide referral network. As an organized effort, the Bureau plans to implement the statewide roll-out in 2 phases, based on the 13-region map found on our Statewide Expansion page (this will be updated during the strategic planning process). As a part of this expansion, each region will be required to have a coordinator to support the implementation and growth of CONNECT and work closely with other regional partners.
As part of the enhancement package that is currently in development, the system is being updated to include closed-loop capabilities throughout the entire statewide network, with built-in safeguards to ensure that referrals are only going to appropriate service providers. Currently, service providers (called agencies in CONNECT) are only able to accept and receive referrals from other agencies in their respective systems. This new statewide referral network will allow Montanans to get services they need, no matter where they are in the state.
For those currently serving in a CONNECT Coordinator role, the program has identified a series of supports and methods of communication. We plan to schedule a check-in, introductory call for the second week in March. Please be on the lookout for an email describing this call and try your best to attend. In addition to the check-in call, we will be planning for a monthly group call for all coordinators as well as an annual in-person statewide meeting.
During this transition, it has become apparent that the role and duties of the statewide coordinator versus the regional coordinator and system administrator needs to be defined. This will be communicated as part of this ongoing orientation process. The program staff cannot overstate the importance of planning, and will be working with all the current and prospective regions on developing an individualized long-term sustainability plan.
Survey: Planning & Partnerships
Statewide partnerships and collaboration will make the CONNECT expansion successful. The collaborative work includes everything from staff support and system promotion to financial contributions for system upgrades and maintenance. There are entities from a variety of disciplines interested in utilizing CONNECT, as it is caters to such a wide audience. To prepare an inclusive CONNECT project plan, we created two surveys for current and prospective regional and statewide partners.
Regional Readiness Survey
(to identify what we need to do to support each region individually):
Statewide Partner Survey
(to identify State of Montana or other statewide partners interested in CONNECT):
If you’re interested in completing the survey, please include all the details you would like the team to know regarding your interest in CONNECT and share with any partner organizations who may be interested in providing input. Your participation is appreciated!
Once the survey has closed, the results will be compiled and synthesized for evaluation. The results will be utilized at a Bureau strategic planning meeting to identify key partners, begin the referral mapping process to establish a baseline that will allow us to track growth over time, and create a detailed work plan. The strategic planning meeting is scheduled for the end of March; updates will be communicated through this blog.
Please subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications as updates are available. Thank you for your patience during this transition – it is an exciting time for Montana. Let’s get CONNECTED!