NIATx Improves Client Engagement in LA County Pilot Project

Submitted by: 12/19/2018 by Maureen Fitzgerald

Five Los Angeles County mental health treatment agencies participated in a NIATx project with goals to increase client engagement and retention in CalWORKs, the state’s welfare-to-work program. The project was co-sponsored by the LA County Department of Mental Health, California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions, UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, and the SAMHSA-funded Pacific Southwest Addiction Technology Transfer Center, HHS Region 9, and led by NIATx coach Beth Rutkowski.

“The change teams worked on improving customer engagement and reducing no-shows and early drop-outs as barriers to the end goal of CalWORKs, which is gainful employment,” says Rutkowski.

The project began with a kick-off meeting in October 2017, where the change teams learned the NIATx model. Twice-monthly coaching calls with Rutkowski followed through August 2018, and the teams shared their change project results at a completion conference in September 2018.

One of the top lessons the change teams learned? Little things can make a big difference. For example, several of the change teams used reminder phone calls or letters to improve show rates for intake appointments.

“Reminder letters and phone calls helped to reduce clients’ anxiety about what to expect,” says Rutkowski. “Staff now has a better understanding of the barriers that keep clients from coming in.”

See NIATx Promising Practice: Remind Clients About Appointments

Another lesson for the teams?

“They set out thinking that a NIATx change project was going to be a lot of work for them, and it turned out to be very manageable,” says Rutkowski.

The project also reignited Rutkowski’s excitement about being a NIATx coach. “The coaching calls helped keep teams on track, they implemented changes that worked, and they exceeded their target objectives.”

Rutkowski used various tools and resources on the NIATx website, citing the walk-through template tool, the change project form, and the success story database as particularly helpful.

“This pilot project has provided useful information that will be used to inform a larger initiative focused on organizational change and process improvement that will hopefully launch sometime in 2019,” says Rutkowski.

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