• Progress on Open Data Stalls in State of California; Data Stays Locked Up in Jail

    February 17th, 2014 by admin Categories: Blogs Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

    It’s hard not to read this story and weep because it epitomizes what is so wrong about many state government agencies’ modus operandi when it comes to keeping valuable data, data that could even save lives, “locked up in jail”, as we used to call it when I was State CIO not only in Massachusetts but also in California.

    The excuses I can recite from memory:

    •           We don’t have that kind of information

    •           We have that information but it’s not in the format that you requested

    •           It will cost thousands of dollars to provide you with that data.

    •           The system we need to collect that information will cost xx million dollars to design and implement, and will take three years.

    If the state simply collected the primary information they should, data they would absolutely need to measure their activities and effectiveness, i.e., actually do their job, and make it available to the public electronically (open data), there are entire new industries that will gladly tap that database, creating applications to provide the information the public cries out for. But instead, state leadership provides excuses about why they must keep the data locked up in jail.

    This article from the Contra Costa Times say it all…

    CASTRO VALLEY — According to the California Department of Social Services website, Valley Springs Manor is open for business and fully licensed. The agency’s website lists little more than addresses and licensing status for California residential care homes. And when this news organization asked the state for complete information on inspections, violations, citations and fines on such facilities, it was told that fulfilling such a request would take four years and would require a payment of almost $30,000.

    The state’s website on residential care homes provides only a facility’s address, contact information and licensing status. In the case of Valley Springs Manor, that information is months out of date; it is unknown how many other homes listed have suspended or revoked licenses.

    [JTF’s Note: Here’s the worst part.] To receive detailed information, families must call the Department of Social Services and ask staffers to mail information to them, read files over the phone or put aside reports on facility information so they can personally look at records, department spokesman Michael Weston said.

    There are nine regional offices and an additional eight satellite offices across the state — but each office offers information only on homes within its area. There is no central database to compare facilities — a basic expectation in the era of online shopping.

    Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, who is among a group of lawmakers working on a package of bills to force changes in elder care center oversight, said she did not believe creating a database would be expensive. She said she and her staff are working with the department to figure out a price point, though a funding source is unclear.

    Patricia McGinnis, spokeswoman for the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said that under the current system, family members looking for care for a loved one have to hop from office to office to view facility records, prolonging the process of finding the right place. She said the department has done little to modernize its record-keeping, calling their computer system “a mess.”

    “The history of bureaucratic red tape and excuses is no longer viable,” McGinnis said. “What are we going to do and how are we going to do it?”

    Unfortunately, this is not the exception; too often it’s the rule.

    Read the whole thing: California provides scant information to families looking for residential elderly care

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