From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A year of progress toward strengthening the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare

June 24, 2022
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

This is the final article reviewing our work to support DHW’s Strategic Plan 2022-2026 over the past year. This strategic goal includes six strategic objectives.

Improve our communication with Idahoans by reducing government jargon and writing in plain language.

  • In Strategic Objective 4.1, the department has improved our communications by striving to use the language our customers use. This helps Idahoans understand DHW services and programs, increase engagement, and build trust in our dedication to our mission.
  • Work on this strategic objective included developing an internal process to review, edit, and re-write customer-facing documents in plain language. Staff conducted plain language reviews (using the Flesch-Kinkaid tool, which is part of the Microsoft Word spelling and grammar check) in an effort to reach an eighth grade reading level on communications written for the public.
  • The Office of Communications developed a plain language guide and presentation for staff to help improve plain language use for all customer communications.

Reduce the regulatory burden on the public imposed by our administrative rules.

  • In Strategic Objective 4.2, the department’s Rules Unit worked with staff across the department to further reduce regulatory burden on Idahoans by completing the required review of 13 rule chapters in 2022. This involved decreasing the overall number of words in administrative rule chapters and reducing the number of restrictive words, such as “must,” “shall,” “required, “prohibited” and “may not.”
  • Reducing the administrative rules may sometimes require changes in Idaho Statute. The Rules Unit is now collaborating with divisions to request changes to Idaho Code sections during the next legislative session.

Secure and protect the sensitive information entrusted to us by Idahoans.

  • The Division of Information Technology has worked on Strategic Objective 4.3 to ensure the best value for the department in each IT contract. The division reviewed a year’s worth of licensing and support contracts, including the Adobe contract, the Microsoft contract, as well as contracts for various security tools and WebEx.
  • The division is also working to provide value for the department by identifying features available in software and IT programs that will help staff improve processes and productivity without additional spending.

Proactively communicate with the public to share how our work consistently improves the lives of Idahoans in need.

  • In Strategic Objective 4.4, the Office of Communications engaged with community organizations across the state to create unity and support in our messaging. This included support for consistent messaging on COVID vaccines and suicide prevention, through social media and media briefings.
  • The department has provided transparency to Idahoans about the work we do. Part of this has included monthly “Living Strategic Plan” communications, which are real-time updates on the progress we are making toward our strategic objectives and goals.

Reduce financial risk through the adoption of enterprise-wide, integrated best practices.

  • Resources – including people, money, and physical assets – are the lifeblood necessary to accomplish the department mission. For Strategic Objective 4.5, the Division of Management Services created a strategic calendar to help the senior leadership team focus its attention on key decisions that happen throughout the year regarding resources.
  • This strategic initiative also includes developing budget-specific tools so the leadership team can make decisions and requests as a united group. It includes a long-term facilities plan generated by cross-division collaboration, which allows the department to be flexible with changing environmental and economic conditions.

Protect vulnerable Idahoans through an improved criminal history background check system, and improve public transparency of department regulatory activities so Idahoans are aware of the benefits of regulatory services to their health and safety.

  • The department’s regulatory activities in Strategic Objective 4.6 are aimed at two important outcomes:
    • Being safe: Performing regulatory activities that improve health and safety.
    • Feeling safe: Making the results of regulatory activities visible to the public so Idahoans feel safer.
  • The department focused on two main areas of regulation in this strategic objective. The first is the improvement of the criminal history background check system. The Criminal History Unit improved the timeliness of background check applications without sacrificing the quality of service.
  • The Criminal History Unit successfully proposed to the Idaho Legislature a statute change to remove the requirement for notarization for background check applications. This will help to eliminate regulatory burdens on applicants and their employers. It will also reduce out-of-pocket costs for the applicants.
  • The second area of regulatory improvement is to ensure timely inspections of licensed healthcare providers and residential care facilities. These activities help ensure that patients and residents remain safe and receive high quality care. The pandemic interrupted the department’s regulatory activities through stay-at-home orders that decreased the number of regular inspections during the year. The Division of Licensing & Certification completed a list of strategies to complete overdue surveys and complaint investigations. The division is now exploring all options for completing survey work and hiring more surveyors.

As we look to the new state fiscal year, which begins on July 1, we’ll also be submitting the 2023–2026 Strategic Plan to the Division of Financial Management. It will be available to the public shortly after. You can follow the DHW’s work toward our mission and read more about our Strategic Plan on our website.

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.