New York City Council Header
File #: Res 0984-2011    Version: * Name: Bloomberg Administration to discontinue the use and development of Worker Connect.
Type: Resolution Status: Filed
Committee: Committee on General Welfare
On agenda: 8/17/2011
Enactment date: Law number:
Title: Resolution calling upon the Bloomberg Administration to discontinue the use and development of Worker Connect, a shared database that gives workers across health and human services agencies access to personal client information.
Sponsors: Letitia James, Rosie Mendez, Albert Vann, Jumaane D. Williams, Robert Jackson
Council Member Sponsors: 5
Res. No. 984
 
 
Resolution calling upon the Bloomberg Administration to discontinue the use and development of Worker Connect, a shared database that gives workers across health and human services agencies access to personal client information.
 
 
By Council Members James, Mendez, Vann, Williams and Jackson
 
Whereas, Access NYC, a publicly accessible database, gives users the ability to search for health and human services office locations and the capability to start the benefit application process or renew certain benefits including, but not limited to, Medicaid, cash assistance and food stamps; and
Whereas, Access NYC was the first step in a multi-step initiative to computerize health and human services benefits information and a precursor to systems called HHS-Connect and Worker Connect; and
Whereas, The goal of Access NYC is to give clients better access to programs by providing users with online access to 35 city, state, and federal benefit programs; and
Whereas, HHS-Connect was the second step in this initiative; it expanded the online application process for clients by allowing parents to determine their eligibility for, and enroll their children in, the School Meals program administered by the Department of Education (DOE); and  
Whereas, HHS-Connect is a more sophisticated tool than Access NYC;  it permits clients to access City services and shares client information between Access NYC and the DOE in order to determine a client's eligibility for and successfully enroll a client in the School Meals program; and
Whereas, In December 2008 HHS-Connect launched a portal called Worker Connect; and
Whereas, Worker Connect is an online database that enables workers at New York City health and human services agencies to share client data; it gives workers access to client documents stored in HRA's repository including, but not limited to, applications for public benefits and birth certificates; and    
Whereas, In January 2011 at the Emerging Technology- Challenges and Benefits Conference at Harvard University (the "Conference"), Robert Doar, the Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration (HRA), explained that the development of HHS-Connect and Worker Connect was driven from the top down and that only the commissioners of the participating agencies have been trained and are considered Project Managers; and  
Whereas, At the Conference, Commissioner Doar stated that, "the DOE was a reluctant partner in HHS-Connect;" and
Whereas, HHS-Connect created a common client index (CCI), which is used in Worker Connect and is the master registry of client information shared across health and human services programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, homeless services, food stamps, and services addressing housing and the aging; and
Whereas, According to Commissioner Doar at the Conference, "CCI is a way in which mildly conflicting data can be reconciled and presented to a worker in a coherent fashion"; and
Whereas, However, Commissioner Doar did not explain how conflicting data is reconciled; indeed, if a worker finds a mistake in Worker Connect and the mistake originated at another agency, the worker who found the mistake does not have the ability to correct or reconcile it; and
Whereas, A worker who finds a mistake only has the ability to send the originating agency an alert; the originating agency does not need to respond to the alert or correct the mistake, however; and
Whereas, Agency counsel had final approval over what data could be shared among user groups; there does not appear to be a requirement for client approval prior to sharing the personal information among user groups that agency counsels deemed appropriate for such dissemination, however; and
Whereas, There is also the potential for workers to violate client privacy and unnecessarily search for personal information, which could pose a threat to clients seeking public assistance from the city government; and
Whereas, There are approximately 7,000 user groups in Worker Connect from the following agencies: the Administration for Children's Services including the Division of Child Protection, Family Court Legal Services, Child Care, and Youth and Family Justice; the Department of Homeless Services; the Health and Hospitals Corporation; the Department of Correction; the Human Resources Administration; the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; the Department of the Aging; the Department of Probation; and the Department of Finance; and
Whereas, Laws such as Title II of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Federal Privacy Act, the Substance Abuse Confidentiality Statutes, and the Gramm-Leach- Bliley Act are meant to ensure that individuals have control over their own confidential information, yet Worker Connect does not allow clients to control the spread or accuracy of their personal data; now, therefore be it
Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls upon the Bloomberg Administration to discontinue the use and development of Worker Connect, a shared database that gives workers across health and human services agencies access to personal client information.
 
EH
LS 2603
8/9/11