New system making WIC more efficient for Lee County

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 04:58 AM

Lee County's Women, Infants and Children program is using a new filing system that should result in shorter wait times for recipients, officials say.

Lee County WIC Director Donna Clark said the system also will result in less paperwork for staff and more time spent on nutrition education with clients.

"We used to have to fill out forms by hand," Clark said. "Since everything is entered into the computer instead of being handwritten, it has decreased the time spent on filling out forms. Now we can just talk to clients. We're not asking for the same information over and over again."

The change comes as part of N.C. Department of Health and Human Services' roll-out of the Crossroads management information system across the state.

Fully funded by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Crossroads is an information storage system developed by a partnership among Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

North Carolina is leading the initiation of the project, and Lee County was in the second group of counties to implement the program on June 9. Once Crossroads is up and running in all four states, it will become available to the rest of the country as well.

“It's an exciting opportunity for North Carolina to take this leadership role for WIC programs across the nation," DHHS Nutrition Services Branch Head Josephine Cialone said in a statement. "The Crossroads system will move North Carolina from a primarily paper-based system to an electronic system, which will result in better service for WIC clients. ... Our goal is for staff to spend less time filling out forms and more time with the families we serve, helping them get the referrals they need and providing important information on nutrition.”

Clark said there were a number of features the Crossroads system provided that enhanced the program's efficiency. She said that, under the old system, families had to be recorded as individuals, which would often mean filling out nearly identical forms for each member of a family.

"Before, each individual person had their own food vouchers," Clark said. "With this, the food for the month for the entire family is on one voucher. With this, everybody is treated as a family unit. When we see someone, we can automatically see the whole family unit and work with everyone together versus individually."

Clark noted that the system Lee County's WIC program had been using was more than 30 years old. She said she was excited about Crossroads' ability to adapt to new technology.

"With the [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], recipients use an electronic benefit transfer card. North Carolina is planning on implementing that with WIC in the future, and that's going to be so much more efficient."

Clark said she has noticed a big difference since the department switch to the Crossroads.

"We've been pleased with it," she said. "It's streamlined everything, and we can work more efficiently. Things have gone really smoothly."

Crossroads will begin moving to the next group of counties — Carteret, Edgecombe, Harnett, Hoke, Iredell, Madison, Lincoln, Robeson and Scotland — and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, starting Monday.

A full roll-out schedule can be found on the Crossroads website at ncdhhs.gov/crossroads. The program is scheduled to be up and running in all North Carolina counties by mid-October.