L.A. County moves forward on data system linking multiple agencies

Los Angeles County supervisors took a step Tuesday toward creating an integrated data system to track people who receive county services from multiple agencies. 

The supervisors approved $3.1 million for the initial stage of developing a countywide data system. The project will start by linking the departments of Health Services, Mental Health and Children and Family Services. More county departments will be added after that.

The new system will allow a social worker, for instance, to check the database to find out if a foster child has received mental health or medical services from other county departments.

The database would not include specific information on diagnoses or treatments given because of medical privacy laws, but county officials said it would allow the various county agencies to work together more effectively in providing services.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl wrote that once the system is up and running, it would allow the county "to provide more coordinated, comprehensive services to individuals, many of whom access services at more than one county department."

County Chief Information Officer Richard Sanchez said the county has been looking for many years for a comprehensive "identity management" system, but the needed technology has only become available in the past few years.

He said the creation of a new countywide information management system would be a "watershed moment."

Also Tuesday, the supervisors approved a proposal by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to require departments that have been found to have information technology security issues to submit regular progress reports on their efforts to fix them. The supervisors will also consider requiring an annual review of every county department's information technology security program.

Those moves came after recent audits found security lapses at several county departments. 

Probation, Public Health and Public Social Services, which dispenses welfare benefits, failed to deactivate computer login codes for hundreds of former employees who had left their jobs for one reason or another, the audits found. All three departments were also found to have some computers that were not protected by encryption software.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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