June 23, 2011 --- A first-in-the-state automated recertification system, which was just recently expanded to all residents receiving Temporary Assistance, was one of several programs to receive national recognition for showing how government can be smarter and more efficient.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently awarded 2011 Achievement Awards to Westchester County for its REACH Westchester program, as well as an online civil service exam application and several programs promoting better care for the elderly. The award announcements note that NACo is "extremely pleased with the high caliber of county programs and projects" and recognizes the "hard work to promote quality, efficient and responsive management and administration."

"This recognition by the only national organization representing county government shows that Westchester is continuing to get noticed for its innovative programs," said County Executive Robert P. Astorino. "These awards are about modernizing county government and increasing services, and we are doing just that by working harder and smarter -- and at less cost -- to provide better service to Westchester residents in need."

REACH Westchester, an automated recertification system in partnership with the Department of Social Services, allows Temporary Assistance recipients to complete their recertification interview online through an in-office kiosk or a web-based application. The step-by-step process makes it easier for the recipient and will save the county more than $2 million a year.

The REACH system is now available in all four DSS district offices (Peekskill, Yonkers, White Plains and Mount Vernon) to all customers receiving Temporary Assistance. More than 3,000 cases have been registered through REACH since Sept. 1, 2010. All 7,300 single individuals and families receiving Temporary Assistance are now eligible to use the system to recertify their benefits. Soon it will become a web-based system that can be accessed from any computer - at home, the local library or a community agency. Customers will be able to report changes online, such as change of address, income, expenses and household composition by creating a secure user name and password.

The REACH system also received recognition from the private sector in April when it was cited as one of the county's technology applications that "promote and advance public welfare, benefit society and change the world for the better" in the prestigious 2011 Computerworld Honors Program.

The other awards received were as follows:

Department of Information Technology

Webexam (https://exams.westchestergov.com), an online civil service exam application developed by the departments of Information Technology and Human Resources, which streamlines the application and filing process from start to finish. Westchester County job applicants are now able to apply for civil service exams through a system that reduces repetitive data entry, prevents human error, saves both applicants and staff valuable time, and increases the quality of customer service provided to job seekers.

Department of Senior Programs and Services (DSPS)

  • Senior Benefits Information Centers. Trained counselors at the centers, located at four libraries in the county, meet with older adults and their caregivers to help them find information about government benefits. These benefits include nutrition assistance, tax relief programs, weatherization and minor home repairs and paying for prescription drugs. SBIC is a partnership of DSPS, the Westchester Library System and the Medicare Rights Center.

  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. Westchester has been leading a federal initiative in the Mid-Hudson Valley where seniors are taught to manage their chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, high-blood pressure and diabetes, among others. They learn how to better address their health issues, improve the quality of their lives and lower health care costs from trained peer leader volunteers who follow a model program developed by the Division of Family and Community Medicine at Stanford University's School of Medicine.

  • Livable Communities Caregivers Coaching Program. As part of Westchester's effort to make communities as senior friendly as possible, volunteers are trained by professionals to provide one-on-one support to family caregivers and help them understand their options. As a result, the caregivers are better able to make informed decisions to meet the challenges and responsibilities of caring for an older or disabled person. DSPS developed the program in conjunction with Fordham University's Ravazzin Center on Aging. In addition to an Achievement Award, this program was also designated "Best of Category" in the Volunteers category.