Our community is fortunate to have an extensive landscape of human service providers to support low-income families, but like most communities, lacks the infrastructure to formally coordinate service provision and longitudinally measure the impact of these efforts. Not only does this make it difficult to determine if the current work is effective, but it also creates many inefficiencies for providers and even more importantly, for our shared customers who currently participate in multiple eligibility screenings and intakes every time they have an emerging need or seek additional support. Low-income families especially face the tyranny of time and, through our community assessment, have self-reported a lack of knowledge about the services that are available to them across Lancaster County. These challenges are the driving factors for CAP and our community partners to reexamine our service delivery model, coordination and data tracking.
Empower Lancaster is a web-based client information management system that has the potential to completely change the social service landscape in Lancaster County. CAP and partners from the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness, United Way, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster General Health and the Lancaster County Community Foundation have collaborated to make the Empower Lancaster database system available to all social service providers who are interested, under a “pay what you can model” so that size and budget are not a barrier to participation. We designed a universal intake coupled with a Self-Sufficiency Matrix that together form the basis for eligibility screenings and subsequent referrals to services that will benefit customers on their path to self-sufficiency. This saves the customer the “agency time” of having to repeat their personal story and share the same information over and over, while allowing agency users to better share data that leads to better coordination of interventions. For the first time, providers and customers alike have a clear “menu” of the full range of services available across the network, which should foster honest conversations about duplication of effort as well as lingering gaps in coverage. Additionally, over time, this data should also lead to better allocation of resources to higher impact programs and services. Our current understanding is that our model of shared data and universal intake and assessment among providers countywide is the first in the Nation.
The primary purpose of this initiative is to improve connectivity across three levels:
- Connecting people to each other and available services that fit their individualized goal plans through navigation
- Connecting providers to each other through Empower Lancaster
- Connecting service provision to data for improved outcome tracking and further development of individual and community level strategies.
Long-term, it is our hope that all Lancaster County social service organizations will be using Empower Lancaster to assess our progress as a sector in assisting individuals and families on their path towards self-sufficiency.