Department Operations Updates: June 7, 2022

This post includes a summary of recent Dallas County department operations updates relevant, specifically, to members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.  

Team updates include:

Veteran Services

Director: James T Henderson Jr. (U.S. Army, Retired)

James T Henderson Jr. (U.S. Army, Retired)

Our department remains committed to the core mission of “assisting eligible Veterans and/or their survivors in obtaining benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the State of Texas. Our primary focus is to ensure that all Dallas County Veterans and dependents receive every federal and state benefit to which they are entitled.”

Veteran Services, in conjunction with the County forensics lab and Casey Anderson-Gould, has identified 11 remains as Veterans this quarter. 

The deceased indigent or homeless Veterans will always receive recognition and proper burial in Dallas County, and each identified Veteran will be interred at the DFW National Cemetery with honors for their military service. 

Our department participated in several events recognizing our Veterans and to help keep the Veteran community updated.

  • 2/19/22:  Veteran Fair conducted in Desoto, recognizing Veterans within the community. Benefit presentation and lunch provided by In-N-Out Burger.
  • 2/25/22:  Veteran benefit presentation for Dallas Central College District, ensuring that Veterans are aware of all VA education benefits available while pursuing higher education.
  • 3/24/22:  Career Expo for Veterans and Military. Connected students seeking education and employment opportunities.
  • 3/29/22:  Vietnam Veteran Commemoration event, honoring all Vietnam Veterans with a welcome home ceremony.
  • 4/9/22:  Department recognized as keynote speaker for American Legion 5th District Convention. 
  • 5/7/22:  Department conducted Women Veterans Event, recognizing mental health issues associated with Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Veterans injured while on active duty and requesting assistance with filing disability claims can be a very frustrating endeavor. The Veteran Services Department is proud to service the needs of 109,000 Veterans in Dallas County and is eager to boast our 95% monthly success rate in awarded claims. 

The department services approximately 500-700 Veteran information requests each month.

The following chart gives a monthly snapshot of operations within the department:

Veteran Services would like to welcome Angelica Lewis to our team!   

Angelica is an Army Veteran with an eagerness to advocate for the Veteran population of Dallas County. We look forward to Angelica’s successful tenure with the department.

Angelica Lewis

Information Technology

Director: Melissa Kraft

Melissa Kraft, Chief Information Officer of the Office of Information Technology

Information Technology has begun work on a business continuity plan and a disaster recovery plan for Dallas County. 

Together, these plans inform IT staff on what each department needs up and running first to continue serving the County’s customers during a natural disaster, cybersecurity attack, or other interruption to technology services, and what it will take to get that department back to “normal.” A business continuity plan (BCP) focuses on keeping the business operational during a disaster, while a disaster recovery (DR) plan focuses on getting the business back to normal after a disaster.

BCP and DR are subcomponents to the County’s continuity of operations plan (COOP). An initial recovery plan was developed in April 2021 with assistance from Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department (HSEM), Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), and Information Technology.

Many department heads have already received an email from IT requesting assistance with conducting a business impact analysis to gather your systems, processes, owners, functions, dependencies, and their impact on revenue, users, service, etc. IT will use this information to develop recovery targets, contingency strategies, and plans that we will test and train on. Departments should expect to see their specific BCP regularly to capture any needed changes or updates.

New faces and big changes are coming to IT’s service desk and desktop support team.

In partnership with procurement staff, IT launched RFP 2022-027-6942 in the spring for new service desk and desktop technical support services. While there are still many unknowns as the evaluation committee reviews the 12 proposals submitted, IT will gain efficiencies by consolidating from two vendors to one for these critical services. IT will be partnering with the selected vendor to continually improve the support that all Dallas County employees rely on every day. In addition to the new contract, IT is hiring 13 new in-house Senior IT Support Specialists that will be dedicated to responding to your requests for help and ensuring you are back up and running as quickly as possible.

This new contract and in-house Senior IT Support Team are part of a larger initiative underway in IT to transform service management. These efforts are focused on increasing customer satisfaction, controlling costs, maintaining enhanced quality, and allowing IT to become a less reactive and more proactive trusted partner for County departments. Our customers rely on an ever-increasing number of software applications and devices to complete their work every day, and this complexity demands a higher level of service from IT that we are committed to achieving.

IT celebrates the birth of Baby Nora!

Technical Analyst-Trainer Chris Rivas and his wife, Esther, welcomed Nora into the world on January 19, 2022. Nora weighed 6 lbs. 15 oz. and by March was on her way to 13 lbs. Congratulations to Chris and Esther on their beautiful bundle of joy!

IT recently completed a data strategy assessment with Presidio and will be presenting the results to the Information Technology Executive Governance Committee on June 14.

Launched in October 2021, the data strategy assessment conducted by Presidio staff was a window into the current state of Dallas County’s data and how it is managed. This assessment is an initial step toward developing a data management strategy for the organization, one of IT’s 11 strategic initiatives. Presidio interviewed numerous County departments during the project, including Pre-Trial, Public Defender, County Clerk, Court Administration, Criminal Justice, District Attorney, HHS, HR, IT, Juvenile Services, and the Sheriff’s Office. Departments provided great insight into the data they collect, what data they need access to, and what their data challenges are.

Visual from Presidio Data Strategy Assessment

Four basic levels of Data Maturity:
Level 0 = Data is there and really does not drive business decisions
Level 1 = Data can be used for decisions. Data is taken from operational systems to help drive outcomes
Level 2 = Data is an investment where data identifies business processes to optimize
Level 3 = Build business around the feedback from operations and what is reflected in monitoring of data and systems. You use the feedback to drive business change.

The assessment resulted in eight main observations, four categories of executive recommendations, and insight into an actionable roadmap. Data maturity is a journey, and we still have a long road ahead of us as you can see from the visual below.

Budget and Evaluation

Director: Dr. Ronica Watkins

Dr. Ronica Watkins, Budget Officer

Our office remains committed to developing a fiscally sound budget, which requires a complex balance of needs and services.

Dallas County’s FY2023 budget will be developed during the recovery of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing supply chain challenges, as well as the continued weight of Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) and, more recently, the February 2021 winter storms. Additionally, SB 2 reduced the cap on the tax rate increase that the Commissioners Court can consider without voter approval to no more than 3.5%. This limitation on local control with the passing of SB 2 requires Dallas County to think creatively and strategically as we address the needs of our residents. Consequently, forecasting during these critical times becomes essential for effective governmental decision making. 

As we shift from immediate COVID-19 response to addressing general pandemic preparedness, the Office of Budget and Evaluation (OBE) continues to review department base budgets quarterly during the budget process. This year’s budget development for Dallas County is focused on Priority Based Budgeting. The priority planning process involves working with departments to identify flexibility within their budget to better accomplish their goals and missions.

During the Budget Tip Off on April 1, 2022, the Office of Budget and Evaluation provided the following outline to departments in preparation of their budget submission. 

  • Prioritize services. Evaluate the importance of individual programs and services rather than entire departments.
  • Continue to do the important things well. Cut back on the rest. Identify programs/positions that offer the highest value and continue to provide services while reducing service levels, divesting, or potentially eliminating lower value services that can be discontinued temporarily and/or permanently.
  • Demand accountability for results. Traditional budgets focus on accountability for staying within spending limits. Priority Based Budgeting takes it a step further and demands accountability results that were the basis of program budget allocation for services.
  • Spend within the organization’s means. Priority Based Budgeting starts with the revenue available to the County, rather than starting at the last year’s expenditures, as the basis for decision-making. Look forward, not backward, as part of the FY2023 budget development.

During the six-month budget planning process OBE staff continues to gather and discuss estimated budget drivers, including potential investments in the workforce.

The identified budget drivers represent projected reoccurring FY2023 expenditures that may require additional funds to be made available either through significant reallocations of existing County resources or by the addition of new ongoing resources.

The single largest expense of the Dallas County annual budget is operating the County’s jail. Currently, the estimated cost of operating the jail year to date is $129 million ($18.2 million monthly average) Sheriff Operating Budget. The average daily population in April 2022 was 5,633 with an average length of stay of 155 days. The Commissioners Court has focused on reducing the average daily population (ADP) in Dallas County through diversion programs, increasing the number of disposed cases, and other justice programs.

Additional maintenance and operation drivers include, but are not limited to, the following for FY2023 budget consideration:

  • Workforce Investments
    • Compensation (competitive salaries/COLA)
    • Benefits (retirement and health benefits)
  • New Facilities Staffing and Operation
  • Continued Technology Modernization
  • Interlocal and Other Partnership Agreements (North Texas Behavioral Authority/Community Contracts)
  • Unfunded Mandates

The Office of Budget and Evaluation will continue utilizing the OpenGov portal to streamline the annual budget process. 

In addition to streamlining the annual budget process, our office now can quickly pull requested data for stakeholders and meetings via the portal designed specifically for government use. The FY2023 budget process represents the second time the portal was used completely since the implementation for budget submissions.  

OBE created a Budget Resource Page that includes all the information our customers need to prepare their departmental budget proposals.

The Budget Resource Page includes training as a reference point for departments requiring additional assistance.

Our office finalized a FY2023 Budget Schedule.

Dallas County’s budget process consists of department trainings, several months of presentations, budget hearings, public hearings, and budget adoption. The budget calendar below outlines critical dates throughout the budget process. 

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) presented the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to Dallas County for its annual Operating Budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2021.

This is the first submission and award by the Dallas County Office of Budget and Evaluation since October 1, 2001. With this, OBE has achieved OKR 7.13 – submission of the document to GFOA to be eligible and receive the Distinguish Budget Award.

Our department welcomed Damiya Pentecost, Grant Coordinator, in March 2022.

Damiya will be responsible for coordinating the pre-award planning, organization, submissions, and post-award administration of various grants for countywide departments.  

The first phase of the OpenGov public transparency portal for Dallas County constituents’ accessibility has been completed. Click here.

Health and Human Services

Director: Dr. Philip Huang

Dr. Philip Huang, Director of the Health and Human Services Department and the Health Authority for Dallas County

Dallas County Health and Human Services launched the first wave of the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) social media campaign and phase II of the EHE website.

Between December 2021 and May 2022, a total of seven focus groups—three stakeholder specific and four priority population specific—were conducted to discuss concepts and messaging for the EHE media campaign and website.

The Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative calls for a centralized and coordinated effort to end HIV in Dallas County by 2030. The initial aim of the first wave of the media campaign was to spread awareness of the initiative and to drive traffic to the newly created website, endhivdallascounty.org, which houses resources and other opportunities to get involved.

Screenshot of a scrolling image from the endhivdallascounty.org homepage

There are over 20,000 Dallas County residents living with HIV and thousands more at risk of acquisition. Dallas currently has 11 Ryan White funded agencies and five EHE funded agencies, all offering resources at little or no cost to the individual. Focus group feedback identified the need for a single point of entry for all sexual health resources, including prevention and treatment, regardless of one’s HIV status. 

The EHE website is the foundation for this electronic single point of entry. The third phase of the site will include a collaboration with the social service database findhelp.org. This next phase will contain a user-friendly search engine for locating sexual health medical and support services. All services listed on the website will be compiled and vetted in partnership with stakeholders and local organizations.  

Screenshot from one of the Ending the HIV Epidemic promotional videos

The first wave of the social media campaign included a wide range of promotions in both English and Spanish on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, radio, commercials, and out of home posters. The media campaign resulted in over 6 million impressions and 20,000 clicks to the EHE website.

Image of an EHE banner in Spanish

Dallas County EHE looks towards reaching the goal of a 90% reduction in new HIV diagnosis by 2030. The social media campaign and website have helped to facilitate community partnerships, county awareness, and access to prevention and care resources—key steps to meeting our goal.

Screenshot of a scrolling image from the endhivdallascounty.org homepage

DCHHS helped open a new farmers market in Oak Cliff as part of our effort to increase the availability of fresh and affordable produce.

The For Oak Cliff Farmers Market was spearheaded by DCHHS’ Chronic Disease Prevention Division and For Oak Cliff local community organization—in partnership with GROW North Texas, Texas Small Farmers and Ranchers Community Based Organization, Oak Cliff Veggie Project, and Good Local Markets—with the aim of reducing rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in a food desert. Read more about this project here.

The Dallas County Health and Human Services Asthma Control Program (DCHHS-ACP) works to improve health outcomes for children with uncontrollable asthma throughout Dallas County. As part of this objective, DCHHS-ACP has implemented an Asthma Home Visit (AHV) program.

The AHV program recruits asthma patients through community outreach activities and through patient referrals from Parkland Hospital/PCCI and provides them with asthma self-management education. DCHHS-ACP conducts environmental assessments of the patients’ home with the aim of helping families identify and reduce asthma triggers that could be present and provides recommendations for reducing these triggers. The AHV program consists of three home visits conducted within four weeks of enrollment into the program and two follow-up phone calls conducted at six and 12 months from the date of first contact with the patient.

Asthma Self-Management Education (AS-ME) is also provided to patients per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) EXHALE guidelines. The program also provides gift cards that can be used to purchase allergy friendly materials such as pillowcases, mattress covers, air filters, humidifiers, and allergy friendly cleaning products.

The program’s overall goal is for children with asthma to learn about asthma and enhance their asthma self-management skills to reduce asthma-related school absenteeism, frequent emergency room/hospital visits, and to improve their overall quality of life.

Since being implemented in May 2021, the AHV program has contacted more than 564 families, and enrolled and served more than 157 children with uncontrollable asthma in Dallas County. Most of these children reside in zip codes 75216, 75211, 76217, and 75241, and almost all of them go to Dallas ISD schools. DCHHS-ACP is currently in conversation with Carrollton-Farmers Branch (CFB) ISD to expand the program to CFB ISD students. 

As a result of their enrollment in the AHV Program, many of the children have their asthma controlled, and some were referred to a healthcare provider for follow-up visits and/or to have an Asthma Action Plan prepared to help them self-manage their asthma. The program is positively impacting the lives of many children who have been suffering from uncontrolled asthma. One parent shared: “It’s been a while since I stayed up listening to them coughing all night and giving them the pump so late in the night.”

Human Resources

Director: Bob Wilson

Bob Wilson, Director of Human Resources

Dallas County recently closed our 2022 employee engagement survey. Over 2,000 people, a 31% response rate, provided input through the survey.

Hearing directly from staff makes us a stronger organization and helps us ensure that our actions and decisions align with the success of our people and the power of our services to Dallas County. Below are the County-level survey results and the steps we will take to respond to the feedback.

Our feedback overall:

  • Employee engagement at Dallas County is lower than the U.S. benchmark.
  • Employees submitted suggestions for improvement at a rate higher than the U.S. benchmark.

What employees said we are better at as an organization:

  • Role – My role is an excellent fit with my strengths.
  • Resources – I have the resources I need to do my job well.
  • Belonging – I have a sense of belonging at Dallas County.

What employees said we need to do better as an organization—drivers with low scores and high impact are key opportunities: 

  • Culture – Dallas County has a great culture.
  • Communication – Dallas County does a good job communicating with employees.
  • Leadership – I have confidence in the leadership team.

With the feedback from our employee engagement survey, we will focus on one key driver of employee engagement: communication.

This area was chosen because communication has a high impact on creating a winning culture and boosting confidence in leadership.

Only 36% of survey participants believe that Dallas County does a good job communicating with employees, and an equal percentage believe that teams at Dallas County collaborate effectively to get things done.  

Our results show that managers don’t spend enough time communicating with their direct reports, and that lack of communication weakens the relationship with our people. 

As the results are rolled out county-wide, managers will begin having conversations with their teams to acknowledge the survey results and collaborate with their respective teams to focus on the one thing that will begin moving the needle on communication and engagement over the next 90 days. 

Managers will work with their teams utilizing the ACT model: Acknowledge where we are, Collaborate on where we want to go, and Take one step forward. This is an opportunity for the team to give each other feedback, collaborate on solutions, and commit to small changes that we can make to improve our experience at work.

Managers and supervisors have many opportunities to motivate and provide direction for employees. Human Resources will be providing tips for great conversations as well as templates for the ACT model.

See the list of ideas below for additional opportunities to engage in meaningful communication with people.

  • Formal opportunities include:
    • Recruitment, onboarding
    • Performance reviews
    • Goal setting
    • Training
    • Communications by senior leaders
    • Employee surveys
  • Informal opportunities include:
    • Coaching
    • Mentoring
    • Career development discussions
    • Ongoing performance feedback
    • Recognition programs
    • Company social events
    • Personal crises

Communication Methods

The size, composition and expected reaction of the target group of employees should dictate the type of communication used for engagement activities. Some of the communication methods HR professionals and managers can use include:

  • “Keeping in touch.” Ongoing communications with workgroups can occur through regular weekly or biweekly meetings, ideally with 10-15 employees in each meeting. In this forum, issues can be aired or ideas can be discussed to gain immediate feedback. Another component of keeping in touch is one-on-one meetings with an employee who is targeted for superior performance, identified for performance improvement, or randomly chosen from the workgroup.
  • Remote communication. Different technologies allow managers and HR professionals to maintain contact, including:
    • Employee listening platforms where HR can survey workers, gather comments and suggestions, conduct exit interviews, etc.
    • Social media and mobile app resources to discuss issues, share ideas, conduct surveys, and vote on issues.
    • Blogs that routinely inform and update employees on new initiatives and allow employee responses to be recorded and openly available.
    • Videoconferencing and teleconferencing.
    • Virtual meeting space such as MS Teams or Zoom.
    • Emailed newsletters.

Dallas County Human Resources will host a county-wide hiring event on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

The event will be held 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., at the Dallas County Sheriff’s Training Academy located at 8401 S. Polk Street, Dallas, Texas, 75232.Dallas County will open its doors to the community and invite area residents to explore jobs and careers with Dallas County. 

This hiring event will be an opportunity for Dallas County departments to attract and recruit from our community, and departments currently hiring are encouraged to attend. Computers will be available at the event to allow applicants to apply online. Managers will also interview on-site and possibly make conditional offers on-site.

The event will be highly publicized with a press release to local networks and media, including social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. A broadcast will be distributed to all current employees to share with family and friends who may be interested in jobs at Dallas County. A mass email announcement will also be shared with local community organizations and non-profit groups.

Elections

Director: Michael Scarpello

Michael Scarpello, Elections Administrator

The Dallas County Elections Department (DCED) is committed to conducting fair, accurate, secure, and transparent elections and to accurately maintaining voter-registration records for Dallas County’s citizens.

DCED conducted a record three back-to-back-to-back countywide elections this year.

The elections were the March 1 Joint Primary, the May 7 Constitutional Amendment and Joint, and the May 24 Primary Runoff. All three elections were conducted using several new state mandated election procedures.

Below are the statistics for each election:

  • March 1 Joint Primary Election
    • In-Person Ballots Cast: 207,337
    • Mail Ballots Cast: 11,085
  • May 7 Constitutional Amendment and Joint Election
    • In-Person Ballots Cast: 81,213
    • Mail Ballots Cast: 10,990
  • May 24 Primary Runoff Election
    • In-Person Ballots Cast: 94,248
    • Mail Ballots Cast: 10,702

DCED continues to register new voters and reach out to the community through the Volunteer Deputy Registrar Program and our dedicated community partners.

  • New voter registration records processed: 42,974
  • Transactions processed: 168,024
  • Mailed out notices: 1,568,956

Our department conducted 12 Volunteer Deputy Registration trainings and deputized 619 VDRs so far this year, as well as conducting multiple meetings with the Vote Center Advisory Committee and the Citizen Elections Advisory Committee.

Dallas County Elections Department staff received a thank you card from several community organizations on
April 12 to celebrate Thank Election Heroes Day.

The Elections Department implemented several improvements beginning with the November 2, 2021, Joint Election.

  • DCED developed and implemented new vote center processes, reinvented the Judge’s Notebook, and created comprehensive new checklists to improve the experience of both poll workers and voters.
  • DCED developed a new, simplified training program designed for adult learners which more effectively trained the County’s poll workers.
  • DCED acquired and distributed free smartphones to our election judges that were equipped with helpful applications like the Judge’s App, which helped judges process provisional voters, and Language Line, an application which provided alternate language voters with a live interpreter.
  • DCED’s GIS team created both a mobile app and a desktop-friendly web app that allows Dallas County voters to route themselves to their most convenient voting location.
  • DCED’s Communications team launched the first issue of the quarterly Poll Worker Newsletter.
  • DCED moved into its new training/warehouse facility at 1460 Roundtable Drive. When completed, this new facility will also serve as an Early Voting and Election Day vote center in future elections.