Before a new software roll-out, Johnston County relied on a 30-year-old data-processing system to manage its Women, Infants and Children program.
Among its time-consuming shortcomings, the system required separate paperwork for each family member enrolled in the federally-funded nutrition program.
“We tried to make those forms as efficient as possible,” said Josephine Cialone, head of nutrition services for the N.C. Division of Public Health. “But if you had to fill it our for every family member, it was still time consuming.”
But since late July, Johnston County’s WIC program has been using Crossroads, a new information-management system aimed at greater efficiency in all operations, including vendor relations and service to clients.
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The Johnston County Public Health Department says the software, paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has made WIC operations at least 25 percent faster than before. That’s partly because Crossroads keeps all data about WIC-enrolled families in one place, allowing agencies access to information in seconds.
Johnston’s WIC program serves 4,161 people.
Crossroads has “helped us speed up our service to clients and decreased our wait times for them,” said Betty Brett, the program’s director in Johnston County. “It’s made things a lot easier for us.”
WIC program employees across North Carolina can now spend less time doing paperwork and more time helping to meet the nutrition needs of low-income families, Cialone said. “We’re hoping that with the extra time our local agency staff has, they’ll be able to spend more time referring clients to meet resources, helping clients make behavioral changes to meet their health goals,” she said.
North Carolina is one of four states piloting Crossroads, which cost $21 million to develop; the others are Virginia, West Virginia and Alabama. Once it works out the bugs, the USDA plans to roll out Crossroads to the other states.
North Carolina is the leading state in the pilot program. Crossroads debuted in February in neighboring Wayne County. By September, it was online in 58 other small and medium-sized counties. The bigger counties – those with the most WIC families – will get the software once the smaller ones work out the kinks.
Crossroads’ early success is especially welcome after another software roll-out caused long waits for North Carolinians seeking Medicaid and food stamps.
Despite technical setbacks that put the Crossroads roll-out on pause for about a month, Cialone said the new software is on track to be in all 100 counties by year’s end.
“So far, we’ve had good results from our changes,” she said. “We continue to monitor as we add additional agencies to the system.”