Olmsted County Human Services offers free app
Olmsted County's Human Services Department has launched a free smartphone app to help people navigate its services and easily find phone numbers and locations for those services.
Called OC Find It!, the app can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store for iPhones.
"They just download it and use it. It's really pretty straightforward from there," said Olmsted County Community Services Director Paul Fleissner.
His department includes many divisions, such as veterans services, social services, victim services, community corrections, public assistance, adult and child protection and foster care. The app allows users to navigate the divisions either alphabetically or by taking a 12-question assessment.
"If you're not sure what service you need, you can take the assessment, and it will give you a list of suggested services," Fleissner said.
Each page has a brief description of the service, an option to automatically dial the phone number of the division and another to map its location.
"There is a button that will take you to our website with more details about that service. And there's a survey to tell us what worked and what didn't work," Fleissner said.
A colleague from Jefferson County in Colorado gave Fleissner the code for Jefferson County's app, and Olmsted County information technology personnel, essentially, rewrote it, said IT Director Jim Burke.
"It was nice having a start. We didn't have to completely reinvent the wheel. It definitely saved us some time by virtue of them being gracious enough to share with us," Burke said.
It took about nine months, at an in-house cost of about $12,000, for the IT team to create the app, with the main challenge being how to match the available services with the various combinations of answers to the 12-question assessment, Burke said.
"Jim has been a great partner on this, and I think we have a bit of a unique IT department that was willing to try something new like this," Fleissner said.
Olmsted County is the only county in Minnesota to have an app for navigating its services, Fleissner said, adding that he has been talking with other counties about sharing the code so they can develop similar apps. He said it appears that Jefferson County was one of just two in the nation to have such apps.
Fleissner and Burke said they hope to be able to expand the app, possibly establishing two-directional information sharing. Such a system would allow clients to accomplish tasks such as scheduling appointments or even submitting documents.
"Which would require a level of security. Right now, it is all public information available on our website about our services," Burke said.
Fleissner said Human Services helps between 25,000 and 30,000 people annually. The app, he said, will be helpful to the department's clients, as well as its 400 employees and 300 contracted providers.