Traditionally, state and local human services agencies have echoed the categorical structures of the federal government. In this system, each program such as Children and Youth, Drug and Alcohol, Mental Health, and Mental Retardation operated independent of one another. Each program had its own director, case manager, and support staff. This meant that clients with more than one categorical problem had to work with multiple agencies, navigating through duplicate paperwork, a host of case managers, multiple trips, and generally fragmented services. Cementing this problem was a degree of territoriality between the agencies that was bolstered by competition for funding.
The Tioga County Human Service Agency (TCHSA) devised a model of decategorized human services that fuses all the categorical services into a single entity for the benefit of multi-service clients. United under one agency and one staff, TCHSA is able to assign a single case manager to broker an array of human services. This case manager serves as somewhat of a "gate-keeper" to TCHSA's range of public and private services. This client-focused approach means that clients need only tell their story once at the time of entry into TCHSA's system.
The Client Information System is vital to the success of this decategorization. This confidential system, through a number of common forms and data entry formats, stores client information for the ease of case managers. Additionally, the Client Information System is able to re-categorize the department's expenditures to meet state and federal reporting requirements, as the services are federally assessed by category. No state waivers were needed or requested in creating this process.
By pooling these human services, a number of duplicate and overlapping resources have been eliminated. The consolidation has reduced duplicative paperwork, redundant staffing and converted what was formerly competitive energy into cooperative energy. Based on 1996 data, 706 families required services from multiple categories. This means that under the categorized system, this would have translated into 1,468 visits from this group alone. Sixteen percent of Tioga County's families depend on services from TCHSA. Of that group, nearly 52 percent received services from more than one category.