Community Development Commission

Request for Qualifications: HMIS Capacity Building Consultant

Background

Following submission of the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), staff of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) noted capacity and data quality challenges in operating the Sonoma County HMIS. These qualified Home Sonoma County to apply for capacity building assistance and to participate in a new, nationwide HMIS Community of Practice that launched in 2019.

 

The Sonoma County HMIS had experienced significant turnover of its single HMIS administrator position between 2015 and 2017, with three different administrators over a critical three-year period, in which key system mandates such as the Coordinated Entry System were implemented. Home Sonoma County lacks capacity to ensure the high data quality required by its leadership—especially given its extremely low HMIS staff-to-user ratio: Sonoma County is the only community in the national HMIS Community of Practice with only one staff person. Even participating communities with fewer than 100 users have multiple staff assigned to the HMIS, whereas Sonoma County has 334 users. This low staffing ratio in turn limits Home Sonoma County’s ability to develop data policy, make strategic decisions, or coordinate programs in the efficient and systematic way desired.

 

The 2018 data quality challenges emerged following the 2017 Sonoma Complex Fire disaster, and to some extent have been replicated following the 2019 Kincade Fire. In each case, HMIS end user staffing was extremely limited due to evacuation and displacement by the fires, and intake volume also temporarily increased. The entire system of care experienced reduced resources with which to check and clean data after entry. Coincidentally in developing the 2018 AHAR, technical issues with Sonoma County’s Efforts to Outcomes (EtO) HMIS software resulted in data malfunctions that resulted in the rejection of the AHAR submissions. The compounded effects of low dedicated staffing, turnover, natural disasters, and software challenges have had a significant impact on Home Sonoma County’s HMIS data quality.

 

Limits in the EtO HMIS software’s functionality and features have also contributed to data quality concerns. The software forces users to manually execute otherwise automatic tasks, which frequently results in human error. The system does not provide referral or client workflow notifications, or easily create tailored reports to provide the most salient information, especially when using customized data points. Some agencies have adapted to these limitations, but the workarounds require resources and time. A few agencies have even adopted entirely separate software in order to create tailored reports—operating this in conjunction with EtO, or manually manipulating reports in other programs after exporting from the HMIS software. Additional software challenges include occasional duplication of clients and client data due to the lack of ease in searching/finding clients in the system, dashboards that center around services received instead of individual client history, and multiple drop-down menus that lead to inefficient searching and data entry.

 

Concurrently with the HMIS Capacity Building consultancy that is the subject of this RFQ, the Commission has contracted with the creator of the EtO software, Social Solutions Global, to develop cleaner system work flows, more consistent client dashboards, and data entry process improvements to make it easier for Sonoma County’s end users. Social Solutions’ technical assistance providers will shortly provide monthly trainings on data quality and HUD data standards for all end users, beginning in February 2020 until the end of the grant period (September 2021).

 

This RFQ was originally scheduled for release in October 2019, however it was delayed several months because of the 2019 Kincade Fire and the homeless emergency declared by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in December 2019. While HMIS staff and system users had been able to return to the minimum standard of data quality that existed before the 2017 fires, new data collection needs resulting from the 2019 Fire and homeless emergency will likely impact the 2020 Longitudinal System Analysis (LSA), which recently replaced the AHAR as the annual submission to HUD.  

 

 

Scope of Services

A contract for professional services is anticipated to begin March 1, 2020. By July 1, 2020, all activities and training efforts should be fully launched. The HMIS Capacity Building Consultant will address several key challenges:

  1. Limited Staff Capacity.The 1.0 FTE HMIS Administrator’s capacity to effectively manage a fast-growing network of projects and agencies with varying needs and skill levels in administering data is now severely impacted by the sheer scale of the effort. The HMIS Administrator provides moderate to significant day-to-day support to two-thirds of participating agencies due to a lack of provider staff who are skilled and experienced in using the system. The HMIS Consultant will temporarily expand staff capacity for the period of the grant, while activities to create a regular, permanent second position are implemented and completed.
  2. Address Frequent Turnover and Set a Course for Continual Data Improvement. Sonoma County homeless service providers experience frequent turnover among their HMIS End Users, which results in a continuous need for new user basic training. In 2019, 185 new HMIS End Users received HMIS training across more 20 different agencies. This means that more than half of the 334 current HMIS End Users are new users with less than a year of experience. To meet the demands of this high turnover, both the HMIS Administrator and service providers devote significant staff time to constant training. While a few agencies are able to offer new user training in-house, most require additional support from the HMIS Administrator. In partnership with the HMIS Administrator and Social Solutions trainers, the HMIS Consultant will provide new user trainings and develop & identify a cohort of agency based advanced HMIS system experts, to sustain the data quality effort beyond the timeframe of the capacity building grant.
  3. Lack of Investment in the HMIS Data Project.User frustrations with the system, and a lack of understanding of how to use data, have caused many agency leaders to undervalue the HMIS system and data beyond minimum reporting requirements. Some participating agencies have adopted EtO as their data system, but only to satisfy the minimum in funding and compliance requirements. Others find the current software too cumbersome to capitalize on the data and information available. Others simply do not see the value in using data to guide decision-making—or they do not know how to analyze it to use it effectively. The undervaluing of the HMIS effort results in inattention to accuracy, data entry errors, and a constant demand for reactive intervention by the HMIS Administrator. In partnership with the HMIS Administrator, the HMIS Consultant will create trainings for Home Sonoma County leaders to review high level indicators of HMIS performance, support the Home Sonoma County Data Initiatives Task Group, and assist in development of Home Sonoma County data governance policies.

Training topics will include, among others: the purpose and value of the HMIS Data Project, HMIS basics, Coordinated Entry functionality, improving data quality, data cleaning, and other training subjects to be defined in the course of the project.

In order to sustain these efforts after the Consultant project ends in September 2021, Home Sonoma County has devised a plan for transitioning training to in-house experts and developing a second HMIS staff position to continue this work when the grant ends. While the Consultant and vendor trainers will together provide 95%-100% of the needed system wide training in calendar 2020, Home Sonoma County plans to shift this percentage to the cohort of trained system experts as they are developed with additional training capacity and expertise. By February 2021, system experts will deliver an estimated 25% of the needed trainings. System experts will provide 50% of the required trainings by March 2021, 75% by May, and 100% of required trainings by June 2021. 

 

Contents of Applications

Consultants responding to this Request for Qualifications must submit one (1) unbound hard copy and one (1) electronic copy of their completed application no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 13, 2020.

All applications should be mailed or delivered to:

Daniel Overbury-Howland, HMIS Coordinator 
Sonoma County Community Development Commission 
1440 Guerneville Road 
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Applications may not be submitted via fax. Electronic submissions may be made to: Daniel.Overbury-Howland@sonoma-county.org.

The Commission may reject any applications received after the deadline.

Applications shall include, but need not be limited to, the following: 

  1. Cover Letter and Introduction

    • A letter of introduction, which includes the name, address, phone number and email address of the contact person(s) who is authorized to represent your firm. This letter should be signed by an officer of the firm authorized to bind the firm to all commitments made in the application.
  2. Qualifications and Experience

    • Your firm’s role, qualifications and experience in providing similar services to other clients. Include qualifications and experience of sub-consultants, if any.
    • Experience and background of key personnel who will work on the project. Please indicate the elements of the project to which each member of the consulting team will be assigned and designate the Project Manager, who will be the contact person for the project, for your firm and any sub-consultants.
    • Resumes of key personnel. These can be provided in the application or as an appendix to the application.
    • List of HMIS or similar data capacity building efforts with which you have been involved over the past four (4) years.
  3. Methodology and Scope of Services

    The Consultant should describe the proposed methodology for the project, including the methods by which the Consultant proposes to provide training, develop the advanced system expert cohort, and develop local system governance standards. The proposed scope of services should be clearly defined, based on the information in the RFQ and the attached Phase 2 application for capacity building support. 

    The Consultant should also identify the decisions, products, and data anticipated to be provided by Commission/County/City staff or other agencies to ensure successful completion of the training and capacity building effort. The level of assistance required from Commission/County staff should be clearly stated.
  4. Fee Schedule and Cost Proposal

    • Provide a fee schedule for each position assigned to the project.
    • Indicate a not-to-exceed fee for each of the tasks outlined in the scope of services and for the total project, and indicate which items, if any, will be billed on a time-and-materials basis.
    • The project budget is capped at no more than $70,049 for the entire period of the contract (March 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021). Consultant selection criteria will include the value of the cost proposal in relation to the services and expertise provided.
  5. Authorization

    The application must be signed by an official authorized to bind the firm and shall contain a statement to the effect that the application and cost proposal are valid for at least ninety (90) days.

 

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