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First Tuesday -- State Leaders Reimagine Reform: Improving Access to Health and Human Services

Millions of low-income households depend on Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food stamps, and child care subsidies to stay in the workforce while managing family, health, and other needs. At the same time, states and counties are eager for more efficient and effective ways to serve their communities amid battered revenues and reduced staffs. 

Revamping outdated technology, streamlining cumbersome policies, and fixing unproductive business processes might seem natural ways to meet these multiple challenges -- yet the obstacles are many. Political support for safety net programs may be in short supply, budget and policy crises swallow time to plan and implement reform, and trust among local, county, and state staff and leaders can be fragile. 

How to get out of these binds? The Work Support Strategies (WSS) initiative, through three-year implementation grants, is helping a select group of states as they reform technology, policies, and business practices to boost the share of families that receive and keep the package of public benefits for which they qualify. With lead funding from the Ford Foundation, WSS also seeks to foster innovation that transforms state and county delivery of large public programs and minimizes their administrative burdens. A rigorous evaluation led by the Urban Institute will draw lessons from their experiences to inform future policy choices.

Join us as senior officials from WSS grantee states discuss what implementing a reform vision is really like; how they see the policy, legislative, and funding environments; how they’re coping with outdated technology, complex rules, inadequate staff training, and overwhelming local need; what they learned during WSS’s  planning year; and their ideas about the future.



  • Richard Armstrong, director, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
  • Reggie Bicha, executive director, Colorado Department of Human Services
  • Albert Delia, acting secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Olivia Golden, Institute fellow and director of the Work Support Strategies initiative, Urban Institute (moderator)
  • Sandra Powell, director, Rhode Island Department of Human Services


Date & Time Tuesday, June 5, 2012