Macomb County launches tool to fill gaps in health and human services

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published October 2, 2018

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MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County is flipping the script when it comes to health and human services, working with residents to pinpoint needs and discover solutions.

Back on July 5, the county’s Human Services Coordinating Body, in partnership with county officials, launched Macomb’s Access to Resource Information Xpress, or MATRIX, as a resource implemented to link residents with proper departments that can provide proper services.

“I encourage you and your family to use MATRIX, as it provides helpful information and directly connects you with county resources when you need them,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel stated in a press release. “The most frequently requested county human services include health care assistance, veteran information, services for families with young children and senior citizen services — and MATRIX can help expedite your access to those things.”

Laura Rios, chief veterans service officer within the Department of Veteran Services, said the MATRIX process began about two years ago when a team of officials from the HSCB brainstormed ideas that would best streamline resources and execute plans that identify gaps in services.

Services vary based on individuals, in areas that include utilities, health and homelessness — in the form of the WIC supplemental nutrition program, cash assistance, food stamps and more. 

Rios took the project lead in October 2015, chairing a committee that would eventually provide and develop basic demographic information, provide referral services, identify barriers, investigate and implement a computer platform, and set system goals to enhance a common collaborative.

“Everything starts with the customer. … It’s very detailed,” Rios said.

After dissecting options both big and small, the idea of providing simple yet comprehensive surveys to residents and sharing responses with agencies that are part of the HSCB became the new norm. There are several affiliated county collaborators with HSCB, including Early On, Great Start, the Macomb Homeless Coalition and the Macomb Children’s Healthcare Access Program.

The process is easy. Residents must first provide consent to allow the sharing of information with these collaborative county agencies, and then individuals respond to a 10-question survey. Users are not asked for personal information, like Social Security numbers, dates of birth and family sizes.

“We wanted to start off with a simple project that may be able to develop into a bigger project, or expand,” Rios said.

MATRIX kiosks exist in multiple locations countywide: the Macomb County Family Resource Center in Mount Clemens, the Verkuilen Building in Clinton Township, the Max Thompson Family Resource Center in Warren, the SE Family Resource Center in St. Clair Shores and the Macomb Veteran’s Food Bank at Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 in Clinton Township.

Surveys are available in four languages: English, Spanish, Arabic and Bengali. The program is also compatible with Jobs Access With Speech for the visually impaired.

She said surveys typically take 15 minutes or so to complete. Once completed, people choose a preferred contact method. Then, rather than being bombarded by numerous sheets of paper with different agencies and multiple forms of contact information, individuals are provided information pertinent to their personal concerns.

The MATRIX budget of roughly $80,000 — utilized for kiosks, software licensing and tablets used to offer surveys at county events — was put forward in 2016, with money set aside for 2017.

Since July 1 of this year, 100 surveys had been completed via kiosk or by tablet, which Rios “didn’t think was a bad number.”

In an area like Macomb County, where approximately 50,000 veterans call home, Rios said many people fall through the cracks. Silos exist, in which funding of different local and federal agencies differs and complicates the process.

She called this new development “more of a warm handshake.”

“What we find out is people in need don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t know where to go. … If you needed something, it would be great if you could fill out information in one location and see what you’re eligible for.”

To complete the survey or find more information, visit hcs.macombgov.org/hcs-portalofservicesurvey.