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Tennessee county has polarizing IT centralization issue

Recently, the Shelby County (Tenn.) Commission found many political issues to consider when deciding whether or not to centralize the county's government information technology. A vote was split among the county's elected officials regarding centralizing operations. The commission approved the principle of a more centralized IT structure, but left in a clause that leaves it up to the clerks to opt into the system. However, the commission voted not to create a position for a chief information officer (CIO) to oversee the entire operation, which many believe is necessary for the plan to succeed. The plan instead implements a steering committee with representatives of the clerks as voting majority members.

Nevertheless, as the following graphs show, IT expenditures show no sign of relenting, and the centralization could provide a way to streamline the budget.

The main issue at this point is finding common ground and figuring out what is best for the county while satisfying both the clerks' offices and the commission. Both sides are eyeing potential pitfalls in the future. The commission is worried that the clerks' offices will constantly be opting in and out while budget issues are delayed. The clerks are worried that they are ultimately losing control of their own budgets and spending practices when they are closer to their own departments. Only time will tell if the system will succeed, but it will inevitably be explored again in the future.

Editor's note: The graphs have been edited and a previous labeling error has been corrected.

Bureau of Justice Assistance 2010 National Conference

This week at the Washington D.C. Hilton, the Bureau of Justice Assistance held its 2010 National Conference titled "Advancing Justice through Evidence and Innovation." This conference created an interesting mix of state and local law enforcement officials and federal decision makers, and featured dozens of sessions with topics ranging from "Trial and Error: Innovation and Failure in Criminal Justice Reform" to "Innovative Strategies and Practices to Address Gangs in your Community." In addition, top figures in the public safety world – Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano – gave speeches on the current state of public safety.

I focused on attending the breakout sessions most closely tied to technology, including: "Information Sharing: A Powerful Tool in Promoting Public Safety," "Corrections Information Sharing to Improve Reentry Success," and "Protecting the Homeland and Preventing Crime through Information Sharing." The main theme of these sessions was the intersection of technology, law enforcement culture, and funding in pursuing information-sharing initiatives. As many participants noted, the technology is out there, but the difficult part is getting stakeholders on the same page to chase funding and implement technology.

The title of the closing plenary session really captured the goal of the conference: "Forward Momentum: Working Together to Advance the Criminal Justice System." This was not a conference focused on selling goods. It aimed to connect members of the criminal justice community to foster a true exchange of ideas. I would recommend this conference to anyone with an interest in getting a first-hand look at what the top minds in the criminal justice world are working on.

Broadband grant causing controversy in West Virginia

In March 2010, the state of West Virginia received a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant for its Statewide Broadband Infrastructure Project. The state applied for this grant the year before; however, formal plans to improve West Virginia's high-speed Internet access began in 2007.

It seems not everyone was pleased with the way the state proposed spending the grant money. Citynet – a growing regional, full service provider of communications serving West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – alleges the state is wasting taxpayer money and building a broadband network that solely benefits Frontier Communications. The allegations came from Citynet President Jim Martin. Mr. Martin – in contrast with state officials asserting the project would affect 700,000 households and 110,000 businesses – has repeatedly criticized the spending, saying the $126 million wasn't being used to bring broadband to a single home or business in West Virginia. On the contrary, state officials contend the funds will help expand broadband to more 1,000 "anchor institutions" including health care facilities, schools, libraries, government offices and public safety agencies.

Upon Martin's allegations, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration was brought in to review the state's use of the grant money. The federal agency concluded state officials were spending the stimulus funds appropriately and determined Martin's accusations as "unfounded and untrue."

Upon completion of this investigation, Martin declared the findings "flawed" and the review as "cursory at best, and not conducted in a creditable manner." He believes the agency did not take proper time to discuss Citynet's concerns. Nevertheless, although the agency review is over, the West Virginia Broadband Council has agreed to allow Citynet and Frontier executives to speak on December 15, 2010 about how the state is spending the stimulus funds.

All of these proceedings show the increased competition for government dollars, as well as vendor's willingness to fight for grants and contracts. In regards to the investigation and review of the spending, there seems to be a double-edged sword. Ultimately, the transparency of the spending lead to increased scrutiny.

Louisiana Releases Health Information Exchange RFP

Calling all health information exchange (HIE) vendors! This just in: the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum (LHCQF) just released its request for proposals (RFP) for the Louisiana Health Information Exchange (LaHIE). Questions and a letter of intent to respond are due by December 17, 2010, with proposals due by 12 p.m. Central time on January 14, 2011. The contract is estimated to be awarded by April 1, 2011.

LHCQF will be looking for an HIE solution that is easily scalable as it will be employing an incremental approach in developing the LaHIE. Phase one will primarily use a federated data model approach. Federated models allow each participating organization to retain control of its health care information and respond to queries. While this model offers more security, requests for information may take longer to reach the requestor. The goal of phase one is to achieve the Office of the National Coordinator's 2011 meaningful use requirements. Phase two includes the creation of central data storage consisting of core master data management elements (record locator service, master person index) that facilitate information exchange. With the creation of central storage and continued ownership of individual information, phase three includes the natural progression of the LaHIE into a hybrid HIE model. Phase four will see the support of consumer facing technologies, like personal health records. LaHIE will look to capitalize on existing community, private and public HIE capabilities, including eventual interaction with the National Health Information Network (NHIN). LaHIE will also coordinate with Louisiana's Medicare and Medicaid programs.

LHCQF is a private, nonprofit organization selected by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to be the state-designated entity responsible for establishing the framework for its health information exchange. LHCQF received $10,583,000 for the creation of the LaHIE. GovWin is tracking the LaHIE opportunity here.

For more information on the current HIE marketplace, check out GovWin's report, "Health Information Exchange Update," here.

State & Local Fiscal Update (December 2010)

GovWin's Take: Key state and local government consumption categories from which IT consumption and investment are derived have shown resilience over the last two years. Annualized state and local revenue collections were only $50 billion off the last peak (as of 06/2010) and revenue stability has improved significantly in recent quarters. However, weak year-over-year employment recovery and continued declines in monthly economic activity dictate guarded optimism for incremental state and local revenue growth beginning in 2011. The tapering of federal stimulus funds will result in more budget cuts, but state and local budgets should be "right-sized" and poised for net gains by 2012. These findings are in line with the assumptions that framed GovWin's most recent state and local IT market forecast report.

From the news:

The full update includes charts and commentary detailing the key drivers behind state and local IT spending: 1) quarterly state and local government consumption of services, structures, software and equipment, 2) quarterly state and local revenue trends, 3) monthly unemployment statistics, and 4) monthly national economic activity indicators.

>Read More
(Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

Vermont Tackles Health Care Reform

The Green Mountain State, a place teeming with evergreens and maple syrup, will soon be known as a place with a modern technology infrastructure that supports universal health care coverage.

Vermont's progress, highlighted by a recent request for proposals (RFP) release and the future release of a health care reform report, is twofold: health insurance reform and health information technology modernization.

In a recent issue brief, the Vermont Commission on Health Care Reform outlined expansive reforms and innovations currently underway and future plans for the state's health care system. The most important of these, for the future of Vermonters and vendors alike, is an impending report from a team of consultants hired by the state and led by Dr. William Hsiao, a Harvard University School of Public Health professor of economics. This report, mandated by Act 128 of 2010, will put forward designs for three health system options. These options will include a single-payer system, a public option, and a third design chosen by Dr. Hsiao and his team. Though not technology related in nature, this report promises to contain several infrastructure recommendations necessary to attain the goal of universal coverage for Vermonters. A draft report for public comment will be released in January 2011, with the final document presented to the Vermont General Assembly in February 2011. It is anticipated this document will provide a framework for future health care reforms and garner much interest from the private sector, legislators, and the administration. GovWin will monitor for any opportunities that arise as a result of Dr. Hsiao's recommendations.

The needs for any additional technical infrastructure required to implement a universal coverage model will be somewhat alleviated by current projects underway in Vermont. As detailed in the October 2010 version of the Vermont Health Information Technology Plan (VHITP), Vermont plans to transform the state health care delivery system into a comprehensively integrated, digitally powered, distributed learning network of health information to improve the quality, safety, and connectedness of care. Specifically, the Agency of Human Services has released an RFP for a Medicaid Enterprise Solution (MES) (GovWin Opportunity # 50916) to replace the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) currently used by the state. The contract awarded for MES will include Medicaid Customer Services (GovWin Opportunity # 54954). This new Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) compliant solution will be instrumental in supporting all of Vermont's health care reform initiatives. The state requires any respondent to this RFP to describe how they will fulfill requirements as well as achieve cost savings, streamline operations, and provide meaningful performance standards. A mandatory bidder's conference will be held tomorrow December 8, 2010, and responses are due on February 7, 2011.

Vermont is clearly utilizing technology as not only a component of health care reform, but also an impetus for that reform. Though it is unclear which system Vermont will ultimately adopt, one thing remains certain: if Vermont wishes to fully realize the goals of an efficient and cost-effective health care system that provides universal coverage, technology improvement and upgrade will be a constant theme in the years to come.

State audit criticizes North Carolina's purchasing system

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue has proposed a government consolidation plan to address the possibility of outsourcing the procurement of supplies and equipment needed by state agencies to contract privately. Recently, a state audit generated some rather surprising findings for state officials. The audit declared the North Carolina Department of Administration of doing a poor job of managing the current Internet-based procurement system designed to save money through the use of established government contracts for basic goods and services.

The alarming findings conclude that department workers sometimes went as long as 18 months without updating the system with new contract information. It was also concluded that this practice could lead other agencies to not comply with the requirement to use established purchasing contracts due to being unaware of their existence. Additionally, the audit revealed that agencies were not always buying at the best available price, which resulted in unnecessary state spending. This was due to the department often approving contracts with multiple vendors and different prices for the same or similar services. Therefore, sometimes a state employee would have to violate the law by not purchasing from the lowest-priced vendor. Under the proposed plan to privatize procurement, state officials hope to seal the cracks found in the audit of the current system.

GovWin Pulse: Health Care and Human Services November Edition

Hopefully everyone was able to download a copy of GovWin's report – The State Health Insurance Exchange Market, 2010-2015 – before reading this blog, because as you will see, health insurance exchange planning opportunities were the hot-ticket items of November. Exchanges must be operational by July 1, 2014, when expanded Medicaid eligibility rules are enacted. Although three years seems like a lifetime from now for the normal person, states are scrambling as they face the reality of developing and implementing entirely new systems by 2014, in addition to upgrading or replacing current Medicaid management information systems (MMIS) to handle new eligibility requirements. Health insurance exchange opportunities for November included:

  • The state of Delaware Health and Social Services (DHHS) issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a Health Care Reform and Health Benefit Exchange Planning Consultant on November 5, 2010. Proposals are due by December 17, 2010. The DHHS received $725,000 to plan for the design, development, and implementation of its Health Benefit Exchange.
  • New Hampshire's Insurance Department released an RFP for its Health Benefit Exchange Planning Project on November 5, 2010. GovWin is tracking the Exchange implementation RFP under Opportunity ID 66563.
  • Connecticut's Department of Public Health received $996,850 for the design of its health insurance exchange. The RFP process is expected to occur from January to March 2011, with vendor selection between April and June 2011.
  • The state of Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) received the maximum amount of $1 million under the Affordable Care Act to plan for its health insurance exchange. With a new administration pending, IDPH is still in the initial planning phases of the project, including an RFP release.
  • The state of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Office of Information Systems, released a request for information (RFI) for Meaningful Use Provider Incentive Payments on November 17, 2010. Responses are currently under evaluation. Vendor presentations are tentatively scheduled for December 6-17, 2010.
  • Tennessee's Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) released two RFPs: one for Actuarial and Benefits Consulting, and the other for Policy and Operational Consulting in support of its health insurance exchange development.

Although the insurance exchanges seem to be the main focus, other areas of health care and social services continued onward, including the following opportunities:

  • Hawaii's Department of Human Services, Benefit, Employment and Supportive Services Division released an RFI for Child Care Payment Services on November 29, 2010.
  • The state of Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) released an RFP for Electronic Health Records (EHR) Consulting on November 4, 2010. The DOC has been tasked through legislative mandate to implement an EHR system and have it operational by 2015. GovWin is tracking the EHR implementation under Opportunity ID 66469.
  • The state of Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) released the fourth RFP in support of the One DCFS Transformation Project, Document Imaging and Content Management, on November 12, 2010. The last RFP to be issued will be for a new Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS), which is currently on hold due to budget constraints.
  • After several months of delays, Louisiana's Office of State Purchasing released its solicitation for proposals (SFP) for MMIS Replacement and Fiscal Intermediary Services on November 1, 2010.
  • The Missouri Health Information Organization (MHIO) released an RFP for a Technical Services Partner in support of its health information exchange (HIE) on November 12, 2010. Check out the opportunity report for the list of 26 vendors who submitted a letter of intent to propose.
  • Cal eConnect, on behalf of the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS), released a request for offers on November 15, 2010, for Procurement Consulting Services for HIE Core Services. Proposals are due on December 15, 2010.

Notable awards in November included:

  • Florida's Department of Health issued an intent to award the Women, Infants, and Children Data System contract to Ciber, Inc. on November 2, 2010.
  • The state of Nevada Department of Human Resources awarded the MMIS Takeover initiative contract to HP Enterprise Services, LLC., in the amount of $176.9 million.

As we started the year examining HIEs, the future trend seems to be the other HIE – health insurance exchanges. Vendors should be ready, not only for more planning opportunities, but for eventual RFPs for insurance exchange implementation, business processing, call centers, website development, etc.

Deficit Commission Wants State and Local Pension Data

According to GAO testimony from 2007: "Social Security covers about 96 percent of all U.S. workers; the vast majority of the remaining 4 percent who are not covered are public employees. Moreover, 9 in 10 of the public employees not covered by Social Security are state and local government workers."

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released its much-anticipated report, "The Moment of Truth," yesterday. For the most part its recommendations would only affect state and local governments in indirect ways. However, one recommendation (5.8) is for state and local government workers to be covered by Social Security and for state and local pension programs to "share data" with Social Security.

GovWin's Take: Regardless of how the political establishment receives the commission's report. This obscure position is nothing new and will gain traction in coming years as all states and localities look to reign in pension costs. Vendors in the public finance vertical are advised to begin offereing solutions that better address the comprehensive pension reform concerns such as this one.

>Read More
(Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

GovWin Pulse: Justice, Public Safety and Homeland Security November Review

November was a multifaceted month for the Justice/Public Safety & Homeland Security Team at GovWin. Two high-value contracts were awarded; news on state budget problems continued; our interoperable communications report was released; and we received details on some important projects coming down the pipeline in December.

The Maryland Statewide Wireless Communications System was finally awarded to Motorola for $345 million. GovWin first began tracking this project in 2006, when RCC Consultants was awarded a contract to establish a strategy and technical architecture for a statewide system. A request for proposals (RFP) was released in 2008. On November 17, 2010, Motorola's contract was approved and will extend from October 21, 2010 to October 20, 2018, with seven, one-year renewal options. The final contract value could approach $485 million. The contract is currently being protested by ARINC and is now in the state's Board of Contract Appeals. To continue following these project developments, please click here.

Also in Maryland this month, a Statewide Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), Records Management System (RMS), Automated Vehicle Location System (AVL), and Automated Field Reporting System (AFR) contract was awarded to Colussus Inc. d/b/a InterAct Public Safety Systems for $26.5 million during a Board of Public Works meeting on November 17, 2010. For full information on this opportunity, please click here.

In the South, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently approved closure of 10 of the state's 32 radio communications offices as a result of the state's multibillion-dollar shortfall. The DPS explained that the offices closing did not receive a significant amount of phone traffic, and the public will not notice any change. Unfortunately, Texas' budget woes are not uncommon. Budget cuts have been enacted in at least 46 states since 2008, affecting all areas of state services. Some states have tried to mitigate budget shortfalls by raising personal income, business, sales, and excise taxes. These changes, however, may cause more financial issues by contributing to higher education costs, cutting government workforces, and putting a greater demand on federal aid.

State and local budget shortfalls have significantly restricted spending for public safety technology and personnel. Generally speaking, these budget cuts have greatly affected public safety IT projects. Many state and local officials have stated that although their agency still has a huge requirement for new technologies, projects are put on hold due to funding constraints. These spending limits are pushing projects further into the future, as no money for updated equipment or technologies is foreseeable in the years to come. Smaller, "update" projects are being utilized by public safety departments more often than a full replacement or overhaul. There is also an increased reliance on federal funding through grants and earmarks. GovWin has seen an approximate $300 million increase in the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program from 2010 to 2011.

Aside from technology, public safety employees are among the most affected during this budget crisis, as many government positions are being cut. Along with Texas radio communications offices, fire stations in Illinois are being shut down as part of cost-cutting moves by local leaders. As a result of public safety department budget cuts, some state and local officials are estimating that first responder response times may increase.

GovWin's Justice/Public Safety & Homeland Security Team also released its Public Safety Interoperable Communications 2010-2015 report this month. In the report, GovWin estimates that the market will peak at $1.1 billion spent by 2013, and will level off a bit in terms of communications spending after the FCC's narrowbanding mandate deadline. GovWin also includes two perspectives in the report, along with recommendations for government vendors and government agencies. The report has seen a lot of traffic in the short amount of time it has been available, as well as two team members interviewed for an article in the Washington Post and a spot on Federal News Radio.

In concordance with the increased demand on federal aid, GovWin will be analyzing the Department of Homeland Security Grant Programs in a December blog series. GovWin also expects a number of RFPs to be released for significant projects, including a Digital Radio System in New Jersey and a License Credentialing System in the District of Columbia.

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