DSS eyes online records system

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BAKERSVILLE – The Mitchell County Department of Social Services has plans to move to an online record system to provide a higher degree of accountability after previous problems with the disappearance and deletion of vital records. 

In the Monday, May 4, regular DSS meeting, Director Sara Ross said after the previous board meeting on March 2, in which the commissioners unanimously approved an independent review of the Mitchell County DSS, the department began “looking for solutions” and asking, “How can we prevent this from happening again?”

The online software, Laserfiche, would allow the department to review employees’ work performance and audit quality assurance in many different ways, Ross said. The software could track location to certify caseworkers completed their home-visit reports on-site and can alert supervisors if an employee is copying and pasting information from month to month. 

“It’s something that holds everybody accountable, gives transparency to documents, like where we’re at, allows supervision to be based on facts and not, ‘did you or did you not?’ and having to chase it down,” Ross said. 

Ross said Laserfiche would provide them with “real-time assessments” by alerting supervisors when work, such as daily assessments, are not completed so they can make sure they do not get months behind.

“And that’s where we’ve been in the past, is up to a year behind, and that’s not acceptable,” said Jacob Willis, chair of the Board of Commissioners.

Laserfiche would also track each document’s history, including who opened it, and when and what changes were made to the material. Ross said the software would give “special permissions” to staff members with specific credentials, which she said would ensure “nobody at the frontline level could ever delete the records.” 

“It just allows us to be more technologically current,” Ross said. “It provides an opportunity for us to do our work in the field, which is where we want our workers, not necessarily tied to the desk. We want them with the kids.”

Ross said more than half of the counties in the state are using Laserfiche because it is “secured by the federal government as privacy,” and it can communicate with NC Fast, the state-run program the department uses to do business with economic services. 

If DSS does transfer to the online system, there would be a one-time payment of about $26,000. Ross said if they chose to use Laserfiche’s iCloud storage and IT support, there would be an annual payment of $14,000. As an alternative, Ross said they could work with Laserfiche on a yearly contract to pay them on a year-to-year basis instead.

“Let’s say, if we were to go in this direction, then the commissioners decided it was not in the budget for the next year, he would then download all of our information into our network, so we’d still keep all of our information,” Ross said. “We wouldn’t lose it.”

Another alternative would be updating the county’s current network at the DSS office and store the online records on their current system, which would cost about $10,000, Ross said.