Distributed IP Enables 2-1-1 Services For
the State of Texas
The State of Texas Health and
Human Services Commission (HHSC) has oversight and administration
responsibilities for designated Health and Human Services agencies and
programs including the Texas Medicaid Program, Childrenï¿½ï¿½s Health Insurance
Program (CHIP), and Medicaid waste, fraud, and abuse investigations. The
Texas Information and Referral Network (TIRN) has been designated by the
Texas Legislature as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission program
responsible for the development, coordination, and implementation of a
statewide information and referral network.
Texas is one of a number of
states using the 2-1-1 dialing code assigned by the Federal Communications
Commission for access to community-based information and referral services.
Callers can find help with housing assistance, maintaining utilities, food,
finding counseling, hospice services and services for the aging, substance
abuse programs, or dealing with physical or sexual abuse.
Texas wanted to deploy 2-1-1 services statewide, allowing calls to be routed
to one of a number of Area Information Centers (AICs.) Serving a population
of 21 million residents, information and referral specialists at the AICs
assess caller needs and determine the best service providers to refer by
using a comprehensive database of resources. This database is maintained at
the local AIC level and synchronized at the state level to make the same
information available to other AICs who may be called upon to help a 2-1-1
caller. While information and referral services were already being provided
within the communities by non-profit agencies, the Texas Information and
Referral Network team wanted to make it easier to access services by using
2-1-1, improve the quality of service by certifying providers, and reduce
telecommunications costs. In addition, the State wanted to be able to report
on the 2-1-1 service at an enterprise level and to reconfigure the AICs
quickly to deal with local or regional emergencies.
To rapidly implement AICs in cities across Texas without a large capital
budget, the TIRN HHSC program required a vendor to provide a managed
services solution to route the calls. The managed services required were:
the creation of a telecommunications system design; implementation of the
system; ongoing operation and maintenance; and, support of the
infrastructure for IP-based 2-1-1 services.
The State of Texas, like many state governments, has a volume purchase
arrangement for voice and data circuits. This arrangement ï¿½ known as Tex-AN
(Texas Area Network) ï¿½ provides Texas with very favorable rates for data
circuits. By building a ï¿½convergedï¿½ voice and data network (utilizing VoIP
technology for voice) for 2-1-1, Texas would be able to create a virtual,
consolidated call center that could be reconfigured easily to meet changing
conditions, including the ability to respond to calls during emergencies or
periods of high-alert status. Texas selected eLoyalty to design, host, and
support the ongoing operations of the IP-based call routing infrastructure
for the Texas 2-1-1 solution.
The solution design was based on
IP Contact Center (IPCC) technology from Cisco Systems. Working with Cisco
and the state TIRN team, eLoyalty designed and deployed a virtual call
center, linking together the AICs. A ï¿½convergedï¿½ IP network was designed and
implemented for 2-1-1 call traffic to leverage the stateï¿½ï¿½s existing IP Data
A 2-1-1 call traditionally would
require an intercept of the 2-1-1 dial code at the local exchange carriers (LECs)
and subsequent routing of this call to a hidden 800 number, resulting in 800
number charges or other toll charges. Because HHSC has 25 remote offices (AICs)
across Texas, the 2-1-1 call is intercepted and routed to a local
seven-digit number that points to the AIC in 80 percent of the cases. In the
event the caller is not in the local calling area, the 2-1-1 call is instead
directed to a local 800 number (inter-LATA) that points to the closest
regional AIC. When the call arrives at the AIC, the 2-1-1 solution performs
a look-up on the ANI (Automated Number Identification) to determine the
proper AIC to handle the call. With centralized call routing enabled by
Cisco IPCC, calls are redirected, using the VoIP network, to the appropriate
AIC based on language or skill requirements. In the absence of these
factors, calls are routed based on the originating ANI and time of day.
Call flows can be reconfigured
easily to meet changing conditions, such as times of emergency. In addition,
enterprise-level reporting provides HHSC with visibility to AIC performance
and assures that Federal and State funding is achieving the desired results.
AIC-level reporting provides each AIC manager with more management metrics
than ever before.
Administrators for the Texas HHSC realized that information and referral
services would not be effective unless all AICs had local presence in the
community and people in the region were aware of the available services.
Having a local presence in each community would have come at a substantial
cost without the benefit of Distributed IP Contact Center technology. The
benefits of economies of scale ï¿½ consolidated telecom facilities, a flatter
management structure, better utilization of call center personnel and
larger, yet more economical facilities ï¿½ gained by consolidating call
centers would not be available to organizations with these ï¿½local presenceï¿½
requirements without converged IP networking.
For the State of Texas, significant community and state government financial
benefits will result now that the solution has been deployed. The social
service providers working in the AICs already report high satisfaction with
the ease of access 2-1-1 enables.
Other benefits identified include:
ï¿½ System-wide common features not available in segregated PBX environments.
ï¿½ Standard features at each AIC regardless of the call center size.
ï¿½ Savings from shifting toll calls to local calls.
ï¿½ Ability to provide immediate alerts to a community in times of disaster or
AICs that operate 24 hours a day handle after-hours calls for those that do
not. In addition, calls can be overflowed or redirected to other AICs in
times of extraordinarily high call volume. Because the calls stay within the
stateï¿½s 2-1-1 network, telecommunication costs are fixed, predictable and
dramatically lower than they would be over the Public Switched Telephone
Network. With the first 14 AICs deployed, the system is working as designed
and economic benefits are accumulating.
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