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Aug 8, 2023

Joining Carol Pankow in the VRTAC-QM studio is Delora Newton, Division Administrator for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, and Kyle Schemenauer, Director of Services, Eligibility and Order of Selection Unit at the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute (SRVI).

Delora and Kyle talk about the partnership that reduces the time for eligibility determination while freeing up counselors' work time by outsourcing and streamlining the pre-eligibility work to SRVI. 

This partnership has brought an objective and consistent process utilizing a per-customer rate fee. It has been working for Wisconsin VR as applicant rates are soaring, keeping SVRI busier than ever.



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Full Transcript:


VRTAC-QM Manager Minute - Maximizing VR Services: Leveraging Resources so Counselors Can Get Back to Counseling - Wisconsin VR- STOUT Partnership



Speaker1: Manager Minute brought to you by the VRTAC for Quality Management, Conversations powered by VR, one manager at a time, one minute at a time. Here is your host Carol Pankow.


Carol: So welcome to the Manager Minute. Joining me in the studio today is Delora Newton, Division Administrator for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, and Kyle Schemenauer, Director of Services, Eligibility and Order of Selection Unit at the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute. Holy cow. That was a mouthful. So how are things going, Delora?


Delora: Going great. I agree. I thought mine was a mouthful. But Kyle is even more than mine.


Carol: It is. It's kind of funny. How are you doing, Kyle?


Kyle: Doing good. Doing good. Easy. We could abbreviate to Director of services. How about that?


Carol: I like giving you the full shebang. The full glorious title. So I want to give our listeners a little bit of context. Wisconsin had embarked on a project to free up counselor time. It was way back in 2015, and the premise was to have SVRI program at Stout handle the applications and gather that pre eligibility information that is packaged up, passed to the Wisconsin VR counselors for making the eligibility determination. And Delora's staff have discussed this at previous conferences, but we are all well aware of the seismic shift in leadership across the country over this past decade. And I mean, I know I thought, Delora, I think you did too. We thought, oh, everybody already knows this, but there actually is a whole new group of leaders who have never heard of this idea. And I actually think people are really at a different place in being open to new ideas and ways of operating post pandemic. I feel like folks thought and I know I did when I was sitting in the audience, Oh, that's a cool idea. But I really didn't know how I would pursue that or how it would apply when I was working at Minnesota Blind. And so given that State of VR today, I think it's timely to bring up all the options that could be available for states to pursue when it comes to leveraging resources to make VR services happen. The other thing that's really cool about your project is that it's kind of withstood the test of time. So let's dig in. So Delora, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been with the agency and how many staff and consumers that you serve?


Delora: Yeah. Thanks. I have maybe a unique story for being a VR director. I came to VR in a roundabout way. I am not or have I ever been a licensed counselor in Wisconsin. Division administrators were political appointees, and so before coming to VR, I had served elected officials in the state capital for almost ten years. I also have several years of experience working for various businesses and business related nonprofits. So I actually started working for the Department of Workforce Development. That's who VR is aligned with in Wisconsin. So I started working for the Department of Workforce Development in July of 2014, and then I was actually hired as the administrator for the Division of Workers Compensation in August of 2015. So the Secretary's office in the Department of Workforce Development was very pleased with what I was doing there in workers comp, and there was an opening for a director in VR. And so they asked me if I would make the move. So I did. And since that time I've used my knowledge of the state's law making and budgeting processes, my management skills, my understanding of small business needs to lead Wisconsin VR along very several very talented managers. I am so blessed to have them. They have the counseling degrees and the historical knowledge of the federal regulations that I lack. So I've learned a lot along the way and I feel blessed to work with such a great team who positively change lives every day. And you asked about how many people we have. We have about 335 staff if we are full up. So we're located in 42 offices around the state so that we're close by where our consumers are. And counselors can also travel to where the consumers are. They don't have to come to the office. And a lot of things are being done virtually these days as well. And we were serving with open cases, about 16,500 consumers each year..


Carol: Wow! You know, I didn't know that background about you, Delora. That explains a lot because I always think you've had this super practical approach. You're very, you know, even keel and the way you've talked about kind of things you've implemented in Wisconsin, I think that serves you well. You bringing that background and having some of that other expertise in the regs and the different things, and then pairing it with your Meredith and all your other, you know, great folks there. Gosh, that's a great team. Good to know. So, Kyle, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the SVRI Stout group?


Kyle: Yeah. So I come in, I'd be just shy of seven years now that I've been in my role here at. SVRI. And prior to that a couple of years in higher ed and disability services and then about six years or so in the VR world, in a local agency here that provided VR services. So as a service provider to Wisconsin. So all in all, I've been working with Wisconsin VR for almost 15 years and the service provider end of things. Yeah. And you know, kind of like Delora mentioned, I have a different path that kind of took a long path and have never been a VR counselor or anything like that, but have been in supervisory and director roles basically my whole professional career. Yeah. And that's got me here today, I guess.


Carol: Very cool. Well, and a little fact about me. I was not a VR counselor either, so I think a lot of us came into VR from a variety of different ways, but it's all good. So Delora let's go back to 2015. You came on board with Wisconsin VR and when you arrived, I know there was this confluence of things that had happened. Set the stage for us a little bit on what was going on that caused your staff to create this idea, and then you came into the picture and you helped them to implement it.


Delora: Yeah, well, again, it goes back to being a talented team. They're very innovative and creative and trying to come up with, you know, different ways to address issues. So they started this work before me. So when the law was when WIOA was signed into law in July of 2014 and, you know, they were looking at all the new things that VR was going to have to do. They were like, Wow, we need to try to find a way to address the additional administrative workload requirement for staff so that they can be able to prioritize their time to actually serving active consumers. So at that time, it was estimated that the VR counselors were spending up to 20% of their time processing applications. I mean, that's a lot, a lot that included getting consent forms signed and gathering the records that were needed to be determine eligibility. You know, things like the medical educational records. Et cetera. And then going back and forth with the consumers in communication or the applicants, actually, they would be applicants at that time. Also, at the same time, Wisconsin's Legislative audit bureau had done a report, and that report showed that eligibility outcomes were lower than anyone would like and that they were taking longer than people wanted them to. And then in addition, those eligibility determinations across the state were inconsistent. And what that means is, you know, we have 11 different workforce development areas.

I told you we have 42 offices. And so depending on where you were in the state, you might have been using a little bit different of a process. So we thought or my staff at the time thought that development of a more objective and streamlined eligibility review process could really help address those issues. So DVR managers reviewed the law and they were like, Huh, Could we outsource the administrative elements of the eligibility process? So they talked to RSA. We're very good about talking to RSA up front before we do a big new initiative that saved us quite a bit. So they talked to RSA to make sure that outsourcing was allowable and RSA confirmed it was possible as long as the rehab counselors that were employed by the state agency reviewed the eligibility recommendation provided by the contracted entity or and that those counselors remained responsible for making the official eligibility determination. So knew that UW Stout and would be a perfect partner for the project. We have had a long standing history of collaboration with them and both UW Stout and SVRI are public entities operating in different roles, but with a common goal of increasing quality employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. SVRI operates as a nonprofit within the university and can serve as an innovation incubator to pilot new ideas and approaches that can then be expanded or replicated.


Carol: I love that, you know your team, they're smart. I always look to Wisconsin like you guys are the one state agency that didn't have any monitoring findings. Like, you guys are always the people. You're on the edge and you aren't always out there chit-chatting about it. You know, you'll talk at a conference, but you aren't out, you know, widely promoting what you're doing. You all just are head down doing the work, but you're doing really creative things. And I love that you talked about engaging RSA because sometimes folks are thinking about these really great ideas and you don't talk to the federal partner and you might have a little element of this wrong. So that was really good advice that our listeners can take into anything that they're doing. Like it's really good to engage your federal partner just to make sure you don't go down the wrong path. Now, clearly you can't roll out something like this without taking some sort of staged approach. So what was the implementation process like in the beginning?


Delora: Yeah, you are right, a staged approach was really key. And so we launched the initiative as a pilot project in the fall of 2014, and then DVR and SVRI leadership started meeting weekly to design the pilot. So they talked about several different funding models and DVR opted to design it as a new service and then use case service dollars to fund the process per applicant. So we recognize that SVRI they were going to have high startup costs, you know, and we recognize that. And so we wanted to pay a higher rate initially to help them offset those higher start up costs. And then once those were covered, we started paying a lower set rate per case. And that model has worked really well because it provided SVRI with a boost to help with those initial costs. And then we could account for each expenditure because it was connected to a case. So then in May of 2014, SVRI initially hired ten staff for that pilot phase, and their leadership team provided close supervision and support as that new service was implemented and also DVR provided a multi-day, in-depth training to that new team in May of 2015. And then ongoing training was provided as needed.

After that, we also provided extensive training to our staff, including directors, supervisors, counselors and support staff, so that no matter who you were on the team, you understood what the new process was going to be. And then we started piloting that new service in our southeast part of the state, which is the largest population center. For people who aren't really familiar with Wisconsin. That includes Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, you know, a very large population area of the state. And we started that in May of 2015. And then a phased model was used to expand the service statewide by the summer of 2016. And as more of our areas were added then SVRI hired more staff. So by the end of the first full year of implementation, SVRI was processing more than 10,000 applicants annually on behalf of DVR. So it ramped up very quickly. I think if we had to do it over again, we would probably have phased it in a little bit slower. But, you know, those are some of the takeaways and the lessons that you learn. But overall, it worked really, really well.


Carol: That's a lot when you talk about that 10,000 applicants. I know I keep that number. When you said in the beginning, really that your staff were spending 20% of their time, you know, processing applications. Holy cow. I mean, this leveraging, you know, of these other services definitely helped you out. So now I know you also Delora did in the beginning kind of had this little bit of a situation or kind of the pushback from the counselors where maybe they were challenging some of the work done by SVRI. Can you talk a little bit about that?


Delora: Yeah, we knew going into it that we had inconsistent eligibility determinations across the state, which meant that all of our counselors weren't doing it the same. At the time we had almost 200 counselors reviewing those applications and then making the eligibility determinations based on their training and interpretation of the regs. And we all know that our regs are not black and white. They are gray. So people interpreted them a little bit differently. And of course, everybody believed that their way was the correct way to do it. So when SVRI had a dedicated team that was reviewing those applications and recommending the eligibility determinations, remember, recommendation is a key word here. The recommendations became a lot more consistent across the state because you had a set group of people who was doing it no matter where they were. So counselors have to make that final determination to stay compliant with the regs. Some of the counselors disagreed with the SVRI recommendations, so we had our managers review those disputed recommendations. And funny or not funny, however you want to look at it, they determined that most of what SVRI was recommending was actually correct mean some of our counselors weren't doing it correctly. So our managers, you know, also regularly conferred with SVR leadership about the feedback and the questions that we got from counselors so we could update processes as soon as possible if they needed updating. Sometimes more training was required for SVRI staff and sometimes more training was required for our counselors. But it was a joint effort of, okay, here's what we're seeing. You know, talking to Kyle, here's what we're seeing, here's what they're seeing. What do we need to adjust? So it was a very collaborative process.


Carol: Yeah, I really like that. And I'm sure any time you go into a new venture, you know, and staff are like they're kind of suspicious of what's happening and are you taking my work away? Even though people are like, it took 20% of my time, I don't want that work, yet, I don't want somebody else to do it either. So that sounds like that was handled really well. Now, Kyle, kind of switching to you a little bit, you came on board at the end of 2016 when the project was fully staffed. What challenges did you face as you were fully rolling all of this out?


Kyle: Yeah. As anything new in growing a new kind of business is getting the buy-in of one.. your staff, but then of your partners. So it was one continuously growing. So things, systematically things are changing, processes. We're trying to be as efficient and effective as we possibly can. So training, all of that, making sure we have the right staff, developing that communication and trust with Wisconsin VR, trusting in the process of what we're doing. So with anything new that was, you know, our biggest challenge is, is establishing the lines of communication and doing it the right way and getting the buy-in from both our staff, but then the VR staff as well, that we're in it for one thing, and that's the consumers. And we're here to do it together and make it the way it's supposed to be and provide that consistency across the board. It was a lot of training and education on both ends. It was our staff needing some time to kind of stand their ground of, well, this is our process and this is how we do that. And really just continuously to work together. In my role, it was continuously still hiring, even coming in at my spot at that point, we had that turnover, we had that that transition of anything new where you got your certain staff that were certainly bought in, maybe some staff that wasn't for you. So it was the growing pains of anything new. So facing that, plus then facing the referrals coming in and really just gearing up and making sure that we're providing the service that we say that we're going to provide and doing that. So yeah, it brought its own challenges, but working with VR in the past, having local VR connections and things like that on my perspective really helped kind of me and I guess maybe building that trust with VR and just being completely transparent in who we are and what we're trying to do.


Carol: I think it's cool. It's really evident you guys have a very good working relationship. I just wondered too, Kyle, kind of a little follow up. Did you ever think like, I keep thinking about 10,000, you know, like you had to do 10,000 applicants. Was that at all in your brain that it was going to be that many to handle?


Kyle: You know, maybe not, but we can do it. When you look at what's coming at you week to week, obviously that's accumulating. And over the time at the end of the year, yeah, we've served that many individuals and that's just amazing. And we have a great team of staff that, you know, we still have staff, the original kind of 10 or 8 staff. We have some of those staff that are still with us yet today from the beginning. And we do have a lot of longevity now since really myself coming in and some staff even before me coming in. So it's been great to see. It's been  great to see us continue to evolve together and working on little mini pilots within this to be more efficient and more rapid engaging with the consumer and stuff. So it's come a long ways and it's been a great partnership.


Carol: That's very cool music to my ears. That rapid engaging of those consumers. I like it. So Delora, as with any new initiative or initiatives that you go on, you've got staff that love it, you got people that hate it. How do you deal with those perspectives of staff? I'm sure you probably still maybe have a little rumblings of that as you go along.


Delora: Yeah, there has been rumblings a little bit, but as time goes on and we have more new counselors come in, they don't even know any different. So what we just continue to stress when we hear grumbling is that having SVRI handle the administrative side of collecting those applications and the related documents gives counselors more time to do what they want to do, which is actually offer rehabilitation counseling. It also has given counselors more time to work with transition students. We have met our federal 15% Pre-ets funding requirement every year since we've been required. I think we've heard we were the first state to do it. I can't verify that, but that's kind of what we had heard. And that equates to about $10 million annually for us. So counselors have really had more time to meet with those students throughout the year. And we do a lot of summer youth activities and trainings. And so it gives people time to actually plan those. And those summer youth activities give skills training and temporary work experiences to hundreds of students. So most counselors are now really happy to have SVRI do the task. And any new counselors who kind of want the experience of better understanding what is involved in making an eligibility determination, we will allow them to do those eligibilities on their own for a couple of months I mean, you know, with support of their supervisors and stuff, but we discourage them doing that very long term. So that's how we've addressed it.


Carol: Excellent.. Well, good for you too. I'm like, I'm giving you a big clap that you met your 15% and you're not one of the agencies that just received their 107 monitoring letter on the Pre-ets expenditures. And I would only expect the best of Wisconsin because you are the people we all always look up to because you guys are always doing it the right way. Now, I know you talked a little bit before about how you fund this, and so I just wanted to make sure that I had captured that in my brain the correct way. So you're doing kind of a fee per case, is that correct?


Delora: Yes, a fee for case. And we know the volume can fluctuate a little bit. So that also helps too. So like just having a flat rate, it helps us be able to budget more, I think, because it's something that they at least they know what the rate is per case.


Carol: Yeah, that's really good. That's interesting because I'm sure some of our folks that are listening in are going to sit there and go, Well, how are they making this happen? Okay, So Kyle, you had some really interesting data on your website. Can you talk to us a little bit about that, what the numbers look like?


Kyle: Yeah, really kind of, you know, feeding into what Delora mentioned is, you know, it's our goal is to provide that consistency, give back that time to the VR counselors to provide that guidance and counseling and let us do that busy work of the eligibility process. So really what we looked at is like a five year snapshot of kind of an internal study that we did on our end of what is our service providing to our agencies. And it is that sense of consistent eligibility across the board. More time back for the counselor to provide the guidance and counseling that they want to be doing. Allow us to do the busy work of the records collection, the information gathering and provide you this written report back to you that you can just take and run with and go. Now again, stamp of approval VR counselors providing their approval of that. We're just providing that recommendation. So really just looking at creating efficiencies and cost savings for our agencies and reflecting that. So we have some numbers on there over that five year window of how we're able to decrease eligibility determinations. You know, at one point we were down to like 23 days of being able to submit eligibility back to Wisconsin. All of this is a little bit you know, this is prior to the Covid timeframe that changes everything a little bit, too, but just the cost savings. So really what we're trying to reflect is what can we provide or, you know, even not just us having to do this for other entities, but showing what we've done for Wisconsin VR in that snapshot of time.


Carol: Yeah, I love that. I thought that was good stuff. So since you brought up the dreaded topic of the pandemic, let's look at that a little bit. So how did that impact what was happening with this project? And Delora, I'm going to go to you first and then I'll get your thoughts Kyle.


Delora: Yeah. So, you know, we're like other VR agencies around the country. Our numbers really went down during the pandemic. Even people who were on the caseload at that time who opted, can we just put my case on hold because I'm not comfortable going out in the world and very vulnerable medically. And it would be really, really especially difficult if I got Covid. So we respected that. So since we pay per case, SVRI saw a big decrease in their funding level and so they had to make staffing adjustments on their end. We understood that. And Kyle can speak more about that in a minute, but I do want to just add that SVRI remained a really strong partner throughout the pandemic and continued to provide sufficient staffing levels to meet our needs. So kudos and props to them for continuing to be a strong partner through a difficult time for everybody.


Carol: So since Delora said that, Kyle, what did that look like for your staffing numbers and how that all impact you?


Kyle: Yeah, overall, we've always kind of floated around a fully kind of staffed unit of about 25 to 30 staff, just really kind of depending on where things are at, at that point when referrals are starting to dry up. We didn't have any work anymore. We ended up going down to only five case facilitators, like a few office support staff to handle that during that time frame and then even campus implementing furloughs and all of that stuff. So there was furloughs that went across to quite a bit of our staff at that point, which nobody knew where things were going to go or how things were going to ever get back. You know, everything shifted completely remote. That was something where we would have day in and day out. You would have case facilitators in their cubicles here at work, and it was a buzz that went completely silent. Then everybody started shifting to working from home. That's been really the biggest, I think, shift to, I think for everybody is the world of work realized that there are some possibilities where you can be doing this from really anywhere. So we really started practicing that too. Even as we started to staff back up, we did weather the storm. It wasn't delightful by any means, but we made it. And realistically, now we're seeing record numbers on our end. And thankfully we were able to bring back almost everybody that we had to furlough at the point of our lowest point. And really, as things kind of changed and the world started shifting a little bit back to quote unquote, normal, we were able to then staff back up and pull everybody back in and just really adjust to the referrals as they were coming back to us.


Carol: Holy cow. Going down to five, my heart sunk. I'm like, that's a lot. That's pretty drastic. So since you said that, you know, where are the numbers today? So are you back at it, Kyle? Are you back up to your 25 or what are you looking at?


Kyle: We are crazy busy. We have seen weekly numbers that we have never seen before in terms of weekly referrals. We look at our numbers on a calendar year. Our actual years, July 1st, June 30th, we track our stuff within our case management systems calendar year. So January 1st through the year. And right now we're on pace for a record breaking year. We started tracking our data through Salesforce, our CRM that we use. We started tracking that in 2017, and right now we're on pace to shatter anything that we've tracked since then.


Carol: So what does shatter mean? What's that mean?


Kyle: Right now, at this pace, right now, we'll be over 12,000 cases. And in 2017, when we first started tracking, we were at just shy of 11,000. So we're going to at least be close to that, if not more. And that's great. That struggles with that is just the unknown that that was happening and really staffing back up. So that's kind of where we're at right now. You know, talking about pandemic and things changing the world of hiring employees is ever so challenging right now. And we've been in the hiring phase really since early this year and continue to hire because we can't keep up, which is great for business and we'll get there. We're confident in that. That's really where we're at is we're seeing such an influx in cases and the expansion of what we're doing, which is awesome to see that. And that's what we keep plugging along, is getting people in here as quickly as we possibly can and get them trained into our process and getting them doing eligibility.


Carol: Well, that's exciting news. So, Delora, I'm wondering, are you seeing numbers now of just consumers overall? Are you getting back to kind of pre-pandemic levels for the consumers you're serving?


Delora: Yeah, absolutely. I think our numbers went down through the pandemic. And then like I already said, we had people who just kind of like dropped out and said, this isn't a good time for me. But then even our new numbers coming in was really, really low. But we are ramping back up quite rapidly. So we started to ramp up last year, but to just give you an idea, so we had in June of 2022, we had 873 applicants and this June we had 1264.


Carol: Wow.


Delora: Since October of last year, we've consistently seen higher monthly numbers. It's anywhere from like 100 to 400 more than that month the previous year. So it's really going. We think part of it is because we want to make sure that we spend those federal dollars and we don't have to give money back. We've increased our outreach across the state, you know, making sure that we're connecting more in the schools with the local ILCs, with the ADRCs, and just really trying to get our message out that we're here to help. So we think that that's been helping. So we hope that that higher trend continues. And as Kyle said, we appreciate him watching those numbers, too. He's got a little bit harder job on his end because he's so dependent just on what we're paying, where we can absorb through higher budgets. But they're doing a good job of, you know, hiring as quickly as they can to respond to the need.


Carol: Well, that is super exciting news, though, because I know nationally, like the numbers have been just down in the program. So it's exciting to hear that that spurt, you know, coming back in, and I'm sorry, Kyle, I cut you off.


Kyle: No, that's fine. I just second what Dolores saying those numbers per month from last year to this year. That's exactly what we're seeing, too. They're seeing trends that we've never seen before. And really, you know, as the summer months, school's out, things, you know, kind of that roller coaster, you're kind of maybe going down a little bit. That never happened. This year, we're seeing over a thousand cases referred in the summer months, which were 700 in years prior, all years prior. We're seeing trends in data that of the years that we've been tracking it. This has never happened. So that's great. And the outreach must be working because they're seeing it and we're seeing it as well.


Carol: Yeah, that's super cool to hear. So I know that many states are looking for ways to leverage those other resources to help them carry out this type of work. And I know that, you know, Kyle, you and SVRI you can't do the work for the whole country. In fact, Delora won't let you because Wisconsin has you. But can you tell us some of the ways you've helped other states get started on this journey in their own state?


Kyle: Really, with our national networking of SVRI and who we are and the partnership with Wisconsin VR, we have drawn interest from other states from just having a conversation like we're having right now about kind of who we are. Two other states that are very interested in wanting to model something like this. Actually, we are doing a small pilot with the state of New Hampshire that we've been doing since actually just about a year now that we've been kind of fully engaged. Three offices, I believe, out of the state of New Hampshire on a very small scale doing that and also will be looking in the near future to be also piloting for the state of Vermont on a small scale again. And we've had other conversations. We've had a lot of conversations with the state of Texas and looking to collaborate with the Dallas Fort Worth area, University of North Texas, to really model who we are in that area. And then we've talked with Maryland on a couple of different occasions as well. And again, it's just really being as transparent as who we are, providing the information. And we're here to help guide or train or any type of technical assistance or anything that we could be doing in our end to talk about what we've done over the years and the growing pains and the ways to approach it. And if you did it differently, what would you do and things like that. So we've engaged in a lot of different conversations, most recently within the last probably couple years of who we are, you know, getting at the intrigue of those other states.


Carol: Yeah, I think that's cool that you guys are willing to do that and kind of share your knowledge out because definitely I feel like coming out of the pandemic, people are in a way different space with looking for different ideas and options and how to do something. And obviously you can't serve the whole country. So it is nice if you can help another state, maybe replicate this with their university or some entity, you know, to be able to take that on. I think that's really cool. So what lessons have you learned from this whole deal that are important to others as they might be looking at this option? And Delora, I'm going to go to you first.


Delora: Thank you. First of all, don't be afraid to think outside the box to find workable solutions. And when you're doing that, be sure that you're talking to your frontline staff to learn what are their pain points and then help. Let them help you identify some creative answers. That being said, people are naturally resistant to change, so create a solid change management plan and implement it early. Communicate that plan to staff in multiple ways. Use things like email trainings and staff meetings. The staff are going to need to hear the messages about why, how and when more than once, because they need that to fully absorb the big picture as well as all of the details. Make sure that that planning and implementation timelines are realistic. I mentioned earlier, if we had it to do over again, we would have phased that pilot project out a little bit longer than just a year. So be sure you don't rush it. And the benefits to doing pilots and launching segment by segment of your team is so that you can learn what's working, what's not, and what additional training needs that you have. And then also, as we've talked about, don't forget to consult with RSA during the process to make sure your innovative project is allowed under the regs. We have a positive working relationship with them and think it's a lot because we consult with them in advance and can make any needed adjustments prior to implementation and think that's probably also why we didn't have findings, as you mentioned earlier, because we do regularly consult is this allowed or not allowed? And then we might kind of come back at them a couple different times. Are you sure we can't do this? Or how could we do it a little bit differently so that it meets the regs? But that communication is key.


Carol: Yeah, love that. Really good advice. And Kyle, how about any lessons learned that you might be able to share?


Kyle: It works. We have a track record here now that just show that it does work. And if you can build a good team both as the service provider and the agency and you have strong communication and trust in the process, it works. And if you can get those buy-ins, , it's great to see the growth and I'm glad that we've had the opportunity to collaborate with other states because it's been something on my end. When we first kind of got started and got rolling out like, Oh my goodness, this needs to happen in other places because this is something that I truly believe in that can be replicated and can do the right thing. The biggest is your communication and trust in each other to do it and entertain anything new. And from our perspective, we're always looking to try to be more efficient, more effective. What is out there? Technologies are always changing. Processes are always changing to make us faster and to entertain those ideas and to share those with others to do it the right way.


Carol: Love it. You two have been fabulous this morning. I really appreciate it. And I'm sure as our listeners may want to reach out, that you're both open if someone's going to email you or some such with any questions. Is that all right?


Kyle: Absolutely.


Delora: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, we have had other states reach out to us and we're more than happy to meet with them. And New Hampshire did as well as the state of Texas. There might have been another state, too, that I just can't remember. So, yeah, we're always happy to help.


Carol: Well, good stuff and wish continued great success in your collaboration going forward. And thanks for being with me today. Appreciate it.


Delora: Thanks for having us.


Kyle: Yes, absolutely. Thank you.



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