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Update on PATH and Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS)
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In December 2009, SAMHSA announced that PATH providers are strongly encouraged to use Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). In the past year, several activities took place to advance this initiative. This article provides an update on those activities.

In the recently released 2011 PATH Request for Application, SAMHSA stated a new goal for the States and Territories: “Within the next 3-5 years all PATH programs will migrate PATH data into the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). This goal enables SAMHSA to report reliable and consistent client-level and aggregate data on the performance of the PATH program. SAMHSA will continue to partner with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support States and providers in meeting the 3-5 year expectations of this goal. This support will include such activities as intensive training and technical assistance. In addition, PATH providers will have flexibility to use PATH administrative funds to support HMIS activities.”

In fall 2010, the PATH Technical Assistance Center held a series of HMIS 101 webcasts and organized three sessions at the 2010 Meeting of PATH State Contacts (PowerPoints are available for download on the 2010 PATH Grantee Meeting Topic Page). These examples are two of the activities underway to help PATH prepare to transition to HMIS. In development at this time are online training sessions designed to provide the comprehensive steps necessary to connect each PATH provider with their local HMIS administrators. This online training focuses on local resources to insure a smooth HMIS implementation.

A major step in the PATH/HMIS initiative is the inclusion of PATH-specific data items and service types in the HMIS Data Standards (“The Standards”). The Standards is a document that contains all of the data elements and definitions for HMIS. In January and February 2011, the PATH Data Advisory Committee (DAC) assessed the data needs for successful HMIS integration and recommended changes to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HMIS Standards. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will review these recommendations, along with recommendations from other programs, and publish them for comment in the Federal Register later this year. The PATH Technical Assistance Center will send a listserv message with more information when the standards are published and available for comment.

The current step for the DAC is the development of a new PATH annual report. The DAC analyzed all items on the current annual report. Next, the DAC will consider reporting options for a new report. The result will be recommendations for a new PATH annual report to document more effectively the scope and benefits that PATH programs provide to their consumers.

On February 15, 2011 Dr. Mattie Cheek, PATH Program Director, distributed a notice on the PATH/HMIS initiative training direction. To summarize, this notice announced a plan to present HMIS training through a series of online modules encompassing live webcasts, instructor-led trainings, and self-paced courses. The online trainings on getting connected to local HMIS resources as mentioned above is the first phase of this plan.

A webcast highlighting HMIS best practices was held on April 7, 2011. Webcast presenters included a PATH provider, an HMIS administrator, and a State PATH Contact. The presenters discussed their HMIS implementation experiences, the procedures they used for entering data into HMIS, how outreach workers adjusted, and challenges that implementing HMIS presented.

In summary, the HMIS/PATH initiative is picking up steam. The combination of the HUD Standard modifications, the design of the new PATH annual report, and the upcoming training are bringing this initiative to fruition. Stay tuned online and to your e-mail for further status updates and more details as they become available. All providers and State PATH Contacts are invited to share comments at any time by e-mailing path@samhsa.hhs.gov.

How is your program preparing for HMIS implementation? Or, if your program is already implementing HMIS, what advice do you have for providers that are just starting up? Click “Add Comment” below to share your thoughts.

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PATH Resource
2011
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