Worcester’s hub-system of social services targets high-risk residents

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Worcester is the latest city to adopt a “hub” system for social services delivery, which aims to provide early intervention for high-risk individuals and families who may need support from more than one department or organization.
The rural town of Prince Albert in Saskatchewan, Canada, first adopted the model in 2011. The town saw a 37 percent reduction in crime and an estimated $3.2 million in savings for policing in the three years following the implementation of the hub approach, according to a study by the University of Regina.
More than 100 communities in Canada have now implemented the model, and Chelsea was the first in the United States to adopt the approach, in 2015.
Eric Batista, Worcester’s chief of operations and project management, said the city’s “Hub” involves a weekly meeting with representatives from city departments, state agencies, nonprofits and local institutions such as hospitals. He said Chelsea officials played a “huge” role in helping Worcester start its own hub.
By bringing everyone together at the same table, the Hub seeks to bypass the phone calls and emails between organizations and case managers that can delay services to what he called “acute, high-level” cases within the city.
Project Manager John Genkos, who oversees the initiative for the city manager’s office, said the Hub follows a four-step “filter” process. First, agencies bring high-risk individual and family cases where they’re regularly providing services to the table every Tuesday. The risk factors of the individuals or families are presented at the table, with the representatives needing to agree that there is an acute, elevated risk.
It’s a streamlined process. Case management is not allowed at the table for confidentiality reasons, Batista said, and if a case is accepted and given a Hub case number, only those agencies assigned to the case meet afterward to develop a plan of action.
The accepted cases then require the lead agency involved to make contact with the individual or family within 24 to 48 hours, to receive consent and connect them with services.
“The beauty of the table is you have to hold each other accountable,” Genkos said. “The next week there’s an update, and the updates are very simple: ‘Is this an acute, elevated risk, and are they connected.’ If not, maybe we give it another week to provide an update. That’s the extent of the update to the rest of the group.”
Even for those cases that aren’t evaluated as needing a Hub intervention, the various agencies can connect after the meeting and still offer ideas and services to help those individuals and families, Genkos said.
“We’ve already seen in the first couple of weeks, offline after the meeting, people offering ‘this is a quick program’ or ‘I know this service that could be useful,’” he said. “It gives a face to the name of each organization, too. It builds a team-type atmosphere.”
In addition to connecting high-risk families and individuals with services, Batista and Genkos said the program can help manage city resources by reducing the number of service calls to a particular household, while also giving the city an opportunity to track how it is performing and to identify service gaps.