Planning Successful Outcomes for Veterans: Measuring Impact in Cincinnati
A key component of Opening Doors and the VA's plan to end homelessness is the promotion of management systems to monitor outcomes for both individual Veterans and the programs that serve them. Accordingly, the VA announced on December 21, 2010 that it plans to fully participate in Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) before the end of this year, and VA-funded homeless assistance providers were encouraged to participate in their local HMIS by March 31, 2011. Secretary Shinseki has said, “you can’t fix a problem you can’t see;” Therefore, it is important to have good data that measures outcomes for Veterans that is consistent and coordinated with data that comes from all homelessness services because it allows for communities to effectively plan and allocate resources. This step of having VA-funded homeless assistance providers inputting Veterans data into HMIS allows for local communities to have access to client-level data from homeless Veterans served in other VA funded programs and paves the way for better decision making which leads to better results. At this time, VA and its providers are making progress on the implementation of VA’s new HOMES database and participation in HMIS
The Partnership Center in Cincinnati has been a leader in making sure that Veterans are counted in the local HMIS software platform which is called VESTA. When VESTA was developed to include Veterans data, the first step was getting all the key partners together. Senior staff from the local VA, all the local providers receiving Grant and Per Diem (GPD) funds, and the local Continuum of Care came together to plan the procedures needed to ensure the incorporation of Veterans and Veterans programs into the HMIS was a success. The group
- Mapped out the GPD beds at each facility.
- Reviewed the McKinney/Vento homeless definition to make sure that all providers were counting people experiencing homelessness in the same way.
- Coordinated with the GPD funded providers, VA, and the HMIS lead agency to streamline and clarify the steps of the process from the initiation of homeless certification at the VA through the HMIS system.
- Customized the HMIS entry fields to create one standard Veteran’s form that mirrors the HMIS Data Standards form but including some additional fields helpful for tracking the Veteran population.
- Developed fields to allow tracking at facilities that are partially funded by GPD and partially funded from other sources.
- Developed a billing template to allow GPD providers to bill the VA directly for the Veterans using their services who are entered into the HMIS.
Data sharing relationships did need to be developed to ensure that the process ran smoothly but the sharing was limited. Since VESTA began including Veterans, 286 Veterans have spent a total of 23,656 GPD bed-nights in the Cincinnati area.