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A step toward simplifying access

A message from RMHS Executive Director Shari Repinski

Shari Repinski

When Colorado lawmakers passed a bill in May that requires the state to redesign a case management system that has existed for half a century, it was a watershed moment.

Reducing the number of doors people knock on and phone calls they make before they can get services is common sense, right?

We have certainly thought so, and have long advocated for a restructuring that puts the needs of people who need services above the conveniences of bureaucracy. But important systems that are intended to provide valuable supports to people are often disconnected from one another with different agencies, rules, and services available.

Well-meaning government systems, including schools, health care providers, behavioral health providers, and public assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, exist to help people who need it. But people who need several or all of these programs, can find the totality of the tasks becomes complex and overwhelming.

We’re doing our part to simplify. As the entry point for Long Term Services and Supports, we have taken decisive steps to simplifying what we can by becoming the Single Entry Point program for people with disabilities in the Denver metro area. This additional focus allowed us to begin integration with the similar services provided through RMHS as the Community Centered Board. As we approach our one-year anniversary of the SEP milestone, we can reflect on the early indicators that our hunch was right -- that bringing these two functional systems together into one organization leads to greater efficiency and simplicity.

While we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate how the case management redesign bill is a step toward simplification, we also know we, as a system, have a long way to go. For now, if we can reduce the number of conversations people in need have to engage in to get services, it is progress.

It makes me think about the possibilities if we created a new system. What if we started from scratch and created one organized in a way that means people don’t have to make even one additional phone call or tell their story one more time? What if we could create a system that was flexible enough to respond to the unique and changing needs people may have?

At RMHS, when we answer a phone call from someone who is looking for help, we learn that almost always, the person has contacted or been involved with multiple agencies before being connected to us.

This past year has focused a brighter light on what researchers already know: Services, systems and policies can hinder the involvement of persons with a health condition in all areas of life. We are all learning more each and every day about the barriers that exist for people from the time they identify a need -- whether it be rent, food, personal assistance, clinical therapies -- to when that assistance begins.

This is a critical and incredibly stressful stretch of time. And it’s one that RMHS is determined to make better for people who need support.

For those who need support or who are helping loved ones to get the services they need, they already know that not only is it hard to know where to start, but it can be overwhelming to do all of the things required to access services.

At RMHS, we believe that our most fundamental responsibility is to make it as easy and simple as possible for those who are trying to find the right services. We are continuously trying to gain new perspective, create new ways to simplify our services, and improve the experiences of those who need services. While we still have work to do to get there, we work every day toward that goal.

RMHS strongly supports the state’s desire to create a new case management system. We know that a system redesign as we envision it, would require a long-term focus, a lot of effort and resilience. And we also know – and celebrate – the fact that the recent legislation and the redesign it will prompt is a positive step in the right direction.

That’s how change often starts, right? One step at a time. So, we celebrate this milestone with enthusiasm, yet remain focused on the goal on the horizon of making even more substantive change that will truly change the reality for people who need it most.


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