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Partnerships and Collaborations

Communication Plan for Dane County Human Services and POS Agencies

Introduction

As part of Baker Tilly’s review of the Dane County Department of Human Services’ POS Agency contract process, focus groups were held with POS agencies. According to the final report, one item raised by participants was that, although the department’s Program Managers were generally knowledgeable and accessible, there were potentially areas where communication could be improved upon.

As a result of this feedback, Baker Tilly recommended that the Dane County Department of Human Services develop a plan to enhance existing positive relationships with POS agencies by formalizing two-way feedback opportunities and joint planning sessions with the department. This process would include sustained and regular communication throughout the contract year.

Communications From the Office of the Director

The Office of the Director currently communicates important policy changes, deadlines, and budget information with POSagencies via e-mail and postal mail. This process will continue.

Communications from the past year included:

  • Department and County Budget Information (hard copy).
  • New Request for Proposal (RFP) solicitations and a memo on the annual RFP process.
  • Information about the annual contract process and any contract revisions that may be in effect.
  • Items that may be relevant to the entire POS community that will appear on the Health and Human Needs Agenda.
  • Updates on the department’s progress to incorporate recommendations from the Baker Tilly report.
  • Informational sessions on new programs.
  • Updates to administrative cost rate changes and the living wage.
  • Conference and training information.
  • Extreme Heat Preparedness Memo from Dane County Emergency Management.

In addition, accountants communicate regularly with vendors concerning late reporting or upcoming deadlines for budget information.

The department is also scheduling routine meetings with service coalition directors and leadership (ex., the Developmental Disability Coalition, and the Homeless Services Consortium) to encourage regular two-way communication between the department and leaders in various service areas.

In the future, the department will develop a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that can be shared with providers and posted on the department’s website. The FAQ will be a combination of original content and linked content about various department processes.

Potential topics include:

  • Date when signed contracts are due.
  • Date when budget schedule is due and other accounting deadlines.
  • Contract reporting schedule with due dates.
  • General RFP timeline.
  • General contract negotiation timeline.
  • General department budget timeline, including:
    • Budget directives to department heads.
    • When department budget is due.
    • When department budget hearings will occur.
    • When the County Executive’s budget must be submitted.
    • Schedule for County Board budget deliberations.
  • Where to locate department reports online.

Standard Communications from Contract Managers

Contract managers will deliver on the following standards for communications between POS agencies and the department:

  • Contract manager will prioritize contacts by agencies based on urgency of situation. For non-emergency situations contract manager will respond within 5 business days. Receipt of the contact may be affected if the contract manager is out of the office without access to e-mail or voice-mail, on vacation, or other extended leave.
  • Contact information for contract manager and accounting contact on program summary forms to allow anyone in an agency to access the right contacts.
  • E-mailed contract drafts to providers ahead of the department’s accounting delivery deadline to ensure contract terms are understood by the agency.
  • Working with the POS agency to establish a schedule of regular contact and/or site visits (in person, by e-mail, or over the phone). This schedule could coincide with contract reporting deadlines, for example, quarterly.
  • Keeping POS agencies appraised of relevant County Executive and County Board policy changes that may relate to their services or areas of service, as well as issues relevant to the agency that may arise in community meetings or media reports.
  • Ensuring department changes relevant to the contracted program are communicated between contract managers and providers. For example, when staff changes occur.
  • Reaching out to providers during the county budget process to ensure they understand how their programs will or will not be affected.
  • Contract manager participation in service coalition meetings relevant to contract areas to maintain awareness of program changes, challenges, and other developments in their contract areas.

Standard Communications from Providers to Contract Manager

Standard communications from providers will also be important to achieve the two-way feedback identified in the Baker Tilly review. Helpful information would include:

  • Updates on program changes, including changes to intake and screening procedures, hours of operation, or a change in location of an operation (include a prompt for this information on quarterly reports agency files with the department).
  • Financial changes that may negatively impact an agency’s ability to fulfill their contract.
  • Notable staff changes or changes in agency contact information.
  • A heads-up on media inquiries regarding a program that is funded in part by the county.
  • Invitations to attend special events held by the agency.