Milwaukee County Change Project gives Customers a Voice

Submitted by: 02/17/2017 by Maureen Fitzgerald

Attending a NIATx Change Leader Academy equipped the Milwaukee County Delinquency and Court Services Division (DCSD) with new tools and a new perspective on how to deliver services with a customer focus.

DCSD provides intake, disposition, and detention services to youth who have been alleged or adjudicated for a criminal offense. DCSD includes a juvenile detention center. The agency is staffed by 58 Human Service Worker (HSW) positions, plus a group of Human Service Worker Juvenile Advocates (JAs) who provide case management and court services.

DeShell Parker, Administrative Coordinator for Quality Assurance for DCSD, reported on her experience in an April 2016 story for the NIATX E-news. NIATx Principle Number One, Understand and Involve the Customer, guided her team’s first change project, which aimed to improve the process for juvenile clients that law enforcement has referred to DCSD for an intake appointment.

As often happens with NIATx projects, this change led to another: The Customer Voice Project (October 2015-September 2016) aimed to create a way for clients to give feedback on the services DCSD provides. It started with the change team developing a customer satisfaction survey. Input from a family focus group helped to determine the survey questions.

The team then distributed the surveys to a small number of clients through a series of PDSA cycles. These included:

  1. Distributing surveys to clients during their last visit with an HSW. Self-addressed stamped envelopes were included to facilitate prompt return of the surveys.
  2. Creating a script for HSWs to use when distributing the survey.
  3. Asking clients to complete the surveys in the presence of the HSW during the final appointment.
  4. Having a Quality Assurance Specialist attempt to conduct the survey over the phone. 

Danette Parr served as change leader for the project. Parr, who has more than 20 years of experience as an HSW at DCSD, was excited about using the NIATx approach to give clients a chance to speak about their experiences. Youthful offenders and their family members are not often perceived as "customers" with voices and needs that matter.  

"Our desire to give our customers a voice represents a huge change in our thinking," says Danette. 

One of the most valuable lessons that emerged from this project, says Danette, was staying focused on the original project aim: to give clients the opportunity to provide feedback.

"After a couple of rapid cycles, we realized that we were more focused on increasing the response rate than on providing a way for clients to give us feedback," explains Danette. "In that regard, this project was very successful, as we increased the opportunity to provide feedback from 0% at baseline to 77% after the series of PDSA cycles."

DCSD is also a participant in the state of Wisconsin’s STAR-QI learning collaborative, which uses the NIATx model to improve processes in Wisconsin behavioral health organizations. The collaborative includes regular conference calls and coaching.

"Having regular access to our coaches Mike Quirke and DeAnne Boss throughout our change project was very helpful," says Danette.

The change team has agreed to adopt the customer satisfaction survey. Later this year, an online version will be loaded onto mobile tablets that will allow HSWs to administer the surveys to clients. Clients will also be able to access the survey from the DCSD website.

Additional customer-focused improvements planned for 2017 include a Juvenile Justice 101 informational video that will be available for viewing in the DCSD waiting area.

For Danette, the NIATx model provided an easy to manage outline of what to do at each point in a change project.  "It helps the team stay on task, and it’s also helping drive the changes we want to make at DCSD." 

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