In case you haven’t noticed it, our government uses the industrial, mass-production model of dispensing services.
How the Industrial Model works
Each agency has its own separate system of handling “clients” (i.e. users of services), treating every person exactly the same and requiring compliance to an ever-increasing, ever-petty choke point of rules, regulations, and policies.
Each agency has a specific program they administer in isolation from all other programs.
People go to field offices of all these agencies, wait in long lines, and see an overworked clerk behind a window–often to find out they didn’t follow procedures perfectly and need to return.
Or they call phone numbers, wait a long time, and finally speak to an overworked clerk who answers the phone–often to find out they didn’t follow procedures perfectly and need to call back or call another number.
(The functional people, who are occasional users, go to web-sites and get their simpler issues taken care of without all this).
The traditional process is bureaucracy-centered, program-centered, terribly frustrating, and, ultimately, depersonalizing.
The federal government has a layer of this. Each state has another layer of this. Each county and city has another layer of this.
“Follow the procedures, get the benefits” is the motto.
Interestingly,though the industrial model appears on paper to be a model of efficiency, it is actually hugely inefficient and incredibly time-consuming and wasteful.
The problem is people.
People aren’t the same.
Most don’t navigate huge, bureaucratic systems very well.
And few have the energy to go from agency to agency, program to program, field office to field office, when they are in a place of great need.
So they wait until their problems are so bad they become a crisis. Then the need is met in the most expensive way possible.
The disproportionately needy
In other words, 3% of the people have 80% of the worst and chronic problems, and are therefore heavy users of the system.
In our city, it’s about 100 individuals who are known by name to most of the agencies–but we can’t let each other know they’re the same people because of privacy laws.
Many of them are mentally ill. Many of them are disabled. Many of them are homeless. Many of them are addicted. Many of them unemployable. Many of them have chronic health problems. All wrapped into one.
The industrial approach doesn’t handle them very well.
The same troubled individuals interact with the criminal justice system, the mental health system, the addiction treatment system, the housing system, the unemployment system, the disability system, and the medical system.
They consume a disproportionate share of time, energy, money, and resources and end up not being helped and doing it all over again.
What if there was a way to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and deal with the disproportionately needful people in a way that actually helped them?
And what if this not only helped the 3%, but all the other layers of increasing neediness as well?
We need another model, in other words.
More on this approach the next time…..