NOMADS system slows down county |

NOMADS system slows down county

by Christy Chalmers

A slow, state-run computer system continues to suck up resources and frustrate workers in Douglas County.

The system isn’t the one causing the long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Instead, it’s located across town in the District Attorney’s office, where child support cases are tracked.

Since December 1998, child support workers have been struggling to convert about 1,400 welfare and child support cases to a system called NOMADS, short for Nevada Operations Multi Automated Data Systems. The system, which the federal government is requiring, is intended to centrally store information about welfare, Medicaid, food stamp and child support cases, but county officials have not been impressed. They say the unfriendly, cumbersome NOMADS is replacing an efficient, easy-to-use system.

“We’re devoting so much time to conversion, it’s made it hard to just keep up with enforcement,” said Deputy District Attorney Brian Chally. “We need everybody working on it. In terms of (child support) enforcement, we’re putting out fires and doing the work when we can.”

Douglas recently added one full- and one part-time caseworker to help with the conversion effort, using a one-time state grant. The state provided $31,809 to pay for the workers through March of 2000. Another $23,317 could become available at that time.

Chally said he hopes the new workers will increase the county’s conversion rate. Chally said each case now takes about three hours to do, and the department has a goal of converting 24 cases per week. About 250 cases have been converted.

The department now has 5.5 caseworkers, plus a part-time clerk and a full-time attorney. Of the 1,400 active cases, half are child support actions while the rest involve welfare, food stamps or the other programs NOMADS is designed to handle.

Like every other Nevada county, Douglas faces federal penalties if the conversion effort isn’t completed by July 31, 2000. Chally said the state provided $5 million to assist counties with the conversion, divided among the counties based on their caseloads. Even with the extra help, Chally said Douglas will struggle to process new cases and accomplish other daily tasks even with the converted cases.

“It’s not easy to use, and the response time is very slow,” Chally noted. “Sometimes it takes up to a minute for a new screen to come up , and for a caseworker it’s a horrible experience to just sit around like that.”

Douglas was one of three pilot counties picked to test and implement the system. Earlier in the year, District Attorney Scott Doyle criticized the system, predicting it could mean delayed child support payments, longer delays in enforcement and errors.

State officials say the system is improving and made $2.7 million worth of payments in September without problems. Chally said he’s hoping a promised Oct. 22 state computer system upgrade will increase NOMADS efficiency.

“The computer upgrade should speed things up, but as with everything NOMADS, we’ll just wait and see,” he said.