State Employees Showcase Ways To Make Missouri More Efficient
Outdoor time off, 3D printing, and an emphasis on digital offerings were all ideas frontline staff came up with to improve the effectiveness of the Missouri government.
Seven teams, made up of employees from various state agencies, took part in the Office of Administration’s annual Show Me Challenge on Friday.
Teams of government employees, sometimes from a single ministry or collaboration among several, presented a panel of panelists with ideas on how to make government more effective internally and externally.
The program was launched in 2019 and is completing its fifth cycle.
In its first three cycles, more than 500 state employees from across the state submitted more than 100 proposals on a variety of topics.
This year’s five-person jury included department heads from the Ministry of Revenue, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Administration Office.
They will announce the winner of the contest on Monday.
The first to feature was “Ok Google: Show Me Traffic Hazards,” a suggestion from a Department of Public Safety team that Missouri Highway Patrol officers responding to traffic accidents report the incident on Google Maps.
Google Maps alerts drivers to an incident that disrupts normal traffic flow and automatically reroutes routes. These notifications depend on the drivers reporting the crash on the app.
To provide more accurate data to drivers and reduce the number of secondary crashes in the state, the team suggested that the Patrol’s IT department report crashes and when they are cleared from Google Maps in real time when agents report to the service.
“We receive these emergency calls immediately, so we can enter them immediately into Google,” said Eugenia Howe, the group’s patrol officer and team leader. “We’re already looking at these screens, so we’re not asking someone to take their eyes off the pavement. We’re waiting for updates from our soldiers, and we know when it’s clear so we can get in there anytime. following. “
The team chose Google Maps because it’s the most popular community navigation app and they own Waze, another popular navigation app.
The team found no cost associated with implementing the idea and has already started discussions with other departments, such as the Missouri Department of Transportation, about its implementation for other road conditions. .
The next team was “OA Document Solutions,” from the Office of Administration, who suggested a digital overhaul of the state’s incoming mail and documents.
Using high-capacity scanners with artificial intelligence software, OA would digitize historical and current government documents to make them more accessible to employees anywhere and help reduce the high costs and delays associated with maintaining current paper-based processes.
State Printing Center employee and team member Amanda Toebben recalled recent natural disasters in Jefferson City, such as the 2019 tornado and blizzard and the COVID-19 pandemic, as the reason the change would be beneficial.
“All of this revealed to us, and I’m sure you too, that our paper-based processes have put us in a bad spot,” said team member Travis Rhegan. “Amanda will help us anticipate this problem and teach us how to protect our paper-based processes from disasters. “
State agencies have already responded to a survey on their digital transition needs and the project is ready to be piloted by January.
The presentation of the OA was followed by the “Electronic Notifications of Motor Vehicles and Driver’s Licenses” from the Department of Revenue, which pioneered the idea of implementing an electronic notification system to remind Missourians of the requirements of renewal.
Responding to consumers’ need for more streamlined ministerial correspondence and a large amount of mail returned to the ministry, the ministry would provide an email and text messaging option that citizens can register for online.
The electronic system would be used to remind people of vehicle, boat, trailer, ATV and disability license renewals, as well as non-driver’s license and driver’s license renewals.
“The paper, as we know, sometimes gets lost in the mail, so there is a great benefit in getting this document right away to do the process they need with the Department of Revenue,” said Lexi Holt, member of the team. “Many of them save the ministry time and money, which we are trying to do, by improving these processes for our citizens as well as for the ministry.”
The group said it expects the electronic notification system to reduce mailing costs by 30% and subscribers to be able to switch between paper and electronic communications as they see fit.
Fostering Foundations, a team from the Department of Social Services, suggested the department use a centralized website and current foster homes to address the state’s shortage of foster homes.
Missouri has 14,107 foster children, but only 2,795 foster homes in the state. At any given time, 135 children are placed in emergency foster homes, which last only 30 to 60 days.
“If we can increase foster homes, we can save up to half a million dollars in two months and up to $ 3 million in one year,” said team member Tara Patterson. “And the heartache and trauma that this can save our children is immeasurable.”
The group suggested the ministry use the current foster homes, which say they have received questions on how to get the process started, and a website with centralized documents and a registration form for new parents to fill out. potential host.
Once registration is complete, individuals will receive an information pack by email and concrete next steps.
Team leader Lauren Masterson said the experience of pitching the idea in the Show Me Challenge was exhilarating.
“At this point for us, it’s really not about winning, it’s just about advancing solutions that will have a positive impact on our children and families,” said Masterson.
The next team was “A New Dimension in Laboratory Supplies” from the Department of Health and Elderly Services, who suggested that the department start 3D printing replacement laboratory supplies using recycled plastic waste. .
Laboratory-grade plastic supplies have become harder to come by since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group said, and the department produced 1,500 pounds of plastic waste last year.
With $ 37,470 in new equipment, the department could use its plastic waste to become more self-sufficient by producing some of its own materials and save the state thousands of dollars each year.
In a few years, the initial investment would be paid for by the savings made by not purchasing replacement materials.
The project could be expanded to other areas of state government to reduce costs and waste, such as professional businesses in Missouri and other state labs, the group said.
“Bloom Busters,” from the Department of Natural Resources, DHSS, OA, and the Department of Conservation, suggested the state develop an app to report and track blue-green algae outbreaks in the state. .
Algae are deadly to animals and toxic to humans, but the current process for reporting the presence of algae in a body of water typically takes up to three days.
With an app, the department would have instant citizen reports and could confirm the presence of algae faster with a centralized data back-end dashboard. The app would also have a map showing where the outbreaks are in the state.
“Currently when we get a report like this they are handled through a lot of emails and phone calls. This translates to an average of eight emails to 16 different staff and takes around 30 hours of time. working in state agencies, ”team member Lynn says Milberg. “Without the delays of all those pesky emails, staff time can be cut by over 75 percent.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation’s “Outdoor Boost for MOForce” team pioneered the idea of increasing the motivation and enthusiasm of the state’s workforce by implementing outdoor leave.
The leave would provide state employees with 16 hours of leave each year to spend away with a colleague, which would help hold each other accountable.
Studies show that spending time outdoors improves an individual’s mood, reduces heart rate and can improve productivity, the group said.
The new leave would require the support and approval of the Missouri legislature, but the team said it was a more favorable option than more flexible leave options or spending money to bring live plants in interior areas.
After deliberation by the judges and feedback provided to each group, OA will announce the winning group on Monday.