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Audit says Austin could better track outcomes after it refers people to mental health services

Thursday, October 24, 2019 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

The city of Austin does a poor job of tracking the outcomes of people it refers to mental health services, despite the fact that improving access to these providers is one of City Council’s goals over the next couple of years.

“Tracking of referrals to services was informal and varied across and within departments,” Cameron Lagrone, senior auditor with the city, told Council members at a meeting of the Audit and Finance Committee Wednesday.

While the city does not directly provide mental health services, it does refer people to nonprofit providers in the area. Staff with Austin Public Health, the Parks and Recreation Department and the public libraries can refer people to help, but told auditors they do not formally track what happens afterwards because of privacy concerns.

City Auditor Corrie Stokes told Council it was possible to record results without compromising personal information.

“You could track the number of people that needed services, the number of people that needed services by branch or by location without actually tracking who they were,” she said.

An audit published in February revealed similar problems when tracking the cases of homeless people. Auditors found that the city and nonprofits did not keep a central recording system.

“Some providers used electronic systems to record their case notes, while others maintained handwritten files,” auditors wrote at the time. “There are even different case management systems within the city. The Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) uses a program called Apricot, while Downtown Austin Community Court uses a program called DACCP.”

City staff agreed with the auditors findings and said they would look into recording the demographics, including ZIP codes, of those who get mental health information from the city.

Read the full audit below.

Download (PDF, 292KB)

Photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT.

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