PHOENIX - The director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security is rolling out a plan to fix what he calls a flawed system for overseeing the state's safety net programs.
The demonstration project envisions having a single caseworker in charge of making sure each client receives all the services they need across the department's varied programs, Director Clarence Carter said. The goal is to ultimately reduce the dependency on public support.
"We expend mightily on programs and initiatives to help the socially and economically challenged, but we don't get the results we should because we are not intentional and comprehensive in our intentions around this," Carter said.
Currently, individual agencies provide just their service and might refer a client to a second DES agency for other help, but the system isn't designed to address all issues together.
DES runs a wide range of programs, including unemployment insurance, job training, child and adult protective services, cash and nutrition assistance, and Arizona's Medicaid program. It serves 1.6 million people a year through 44 programs.
The plan Carter outlined during a presentation on Friday would initially target up to 1,000 clients on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
A case coordinator will conduct client interviews and an assessment to learn about the client and the structure and needs of the family.
An individual development plan will then be drawn up and services recommended. A range of incentives to get the client to follow the plan are also planned.
Carter said ultimately the plan should not be more expensive.
"We already spend the money that's necessary; we simply have to reorganize the way that we spend it," he said.
One challenge is that many of the programs are covered by federal regulations, which are complex and sometimes unyielding. Carter said a team of federal policy experts will work with federal agencies that administer the programs.
"In the short term what we are asking them to do is look at waivers and workarounds that will allow us to demonstrate this capacity-building model," Carter said.
State officials will then propose changes to federal law and policy that will allow the new state system to work, he said.