- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s social services agency is making a series of changes in an effort to become more efficient and responsive to its users under a plan unveiled Monday by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The 25-part “business plan” for the Department of Health and Human Services is a formal list of priorities and goals for the agency through June 2017, many of which are already underway.

“No matter how well we are doing today, we can always do better tomorrow,” Ricketts said at a press conference.

Some of the goals include reducing out-of-home placements for at-risk youth, expanding the use of a prescription drug monitoring program to prevent overdoses and starting construction on the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home in Kearney.

Other goals have already been met. Ricketts noted that average call wait times for ACCESS Nebraska, the state’s public benefits hotline, have declined to less than five minutes in recent months, compared to the 24-minute waits of August 2014. And last year, the state’s child welfare system exceeded all six federal standards

Department CEO Courtney Phillips said the changes are intended to increase the agency’s transparency and accountability.

“Through the initiatives in this business plan, Nebraskans will see an even greater commitment to better government, integrity and fiscal responsibility,” Phillips said.

Ricketts, a former corporate executive, ordered the plan in an effort to deliver state services faster and more efficiently.

The Department of Health and Human Services is Nebraska’s largest state agency, accounting for nearly one-third of the budget. The agency’s six divisions spent more than $3 billion last year in state and federal money.

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