An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Funding for Elmore County; Improving experiences for those we serve; and the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Idaho

Before 2020, the end of a year would bring up good memories of times shared, reflecting on accomplishments and milestones, and making plans to celebrate the new year with family and friends. It’s probably safe to say, people may feel a little differently about 2020.

Even though this year has tried our souls in every way possible, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Idaho and healthcare workers across the state are now receiving their vaccines. Many people have questions related to the vaccine, and when they might get a vaccine. The best way to keep updated is by visiting the website. There, you can find the following:

And more … the website is robust and contains a lot of information. I encourage you to spend some time on the site when you have questions about our response to the pandemic. Odds are good we have answered your question, or we will when we have the information. We are committed to full transparency when it comes to vaccine distribution, and DHW will share information with you as soon as possible. That’s a promise.

DHW awards funding to local health collaborative to improve the health of Elmore County residents

I am happy to announce that DHW’s new community investment initiative will be helping the Idahoans who live in Elmore County. The new initiative, known as Get Healthy Idaho (GHI), awarded the Western Idaho Community Health Collaborative (WICHC) $155,000 per year in grant funding (renewable for four years).

This funding demonstrates the power of collaboration among our own staff, with cross-division investments from the Division of Behavioral Health and the Division of Public Health. WICHC is partnering with the Elmore County Health Coalition to reduce health disparities and improve equity to elevate the health of the entire county.

WICHC is the first recipient of GHI funding, which is focused on:

  • Promoting healthy communities by identifying  areas of high need
  • Cultivating partnerships and community capacity
  • Achieving a shared vision
  • Empowering the community to identify and lead health improvement efforts

GHI provides a unique opportunity to collaborate and invest in the root causes of poor health, such as stable and affordable housing, quality education, access to jobs with livable wages, safe communities, and nurturing relationships.

I want to congratulate WICHC for their work to receive the grant and thank them for their commitment to the healthy future of Idahoans.

DHW is committed to improving our customers’ experiences

At DHW, it is our responsibility to make sure that the Idahoans who interact with us are heard and helped in a timely manner. Our customers deserve the highest level of support we can offer, and our goal is to make their experiences with us better than expected.

As part of our Strategic Plan work, we are focusing on improving our customers’ experiences by making consistent improvements in the processes and technologies we use. By improving our processes, we are able to focus on our mission and put the needs of our customers first.

Our first step is to understand the journeys of our customers by paying attention to their “pain points” as they interact with us. We have taken a new approach to this by forming a customer experience team. This team works to improve the interactions our customers have with us.

The main tool the team uses is a process called “journey mapping.” It involves considering the many different types of experiences our customers have with us. For example, something significant may happen in someone’s life; they may lose a job or have an ill family member. They may feel frustrated or angry, and this is when they begin a journey they might not have expected. Our job is to understand our customers’ journeys so we can put people, processes, and technologies in place to make it as easy as possible to conduct their business with us.

DHW develops and implements new customer-friendly website

As we considered the many types of journeys our customers take with us, one of our first observations was that many of these journeys started when Idahoans visit the DHW website. The website definitely needed some work.

So, as part of our strategic planning work improving our customers’ experiences, our first job was to re-imagine the website. It was no small task: We looked through years (… even decades) of accumulated documentation and web pages. We held up a microscope to thousands of pages and documents with the same questions each time: Does this make it easier for our customers to find what they are looking for? How do we make it as easy as possible to connect Idahoans with the services and information they’re seeking?

The customer experience team worked with staff across the department and spent months fine-tuning the completely redesigned website. Our No. 1 goal with our website redesign was focused on usability. We took ourselves through our customers’ journeys: How can someone use our website to apply for a marriage certificate, or a birth certificate? How can someone find information on how to apply for Medicaid? How can someone apply for assistance?

Our new website launched October 18, and we hope you will agree with us that it is a significant improvement from the previous site. We are still making adjustments to it, with a constant goal of improving user experience.

More to come: Customer experience projects in progress

The expectations and needs of those we serve is always evolving, and with it, our commitment to rising to the occasion. There will always be new experiences to improve or re-imagine. One of our other customer experience projects in progress is to improve the application process for the Katie Beckett Program. This is a Medicaid program for children living at home with long-term disabilities or complex medical needs.

As we have worked with families applying for these services, we have heard time and time again that the process is often confusing and time-consuming. Today, the Katie Beckett application process is outlined on our website with a step-by-step process for parents. There is still more work to do, but we are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction for those we serve.

What customer experiences would you like to see the DHW improve?

As we work to improve our processes and technology in making our customers’ journeys easier, we realize we can’t do it on our own. The most valuable input we have is from the people who interact with us. So, if you have a moment to share any thoughts or suggestions you have about our new website, please reach out to us at

As we work to strengthen the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans, we are proud to share our work with the people of Idaho as we move forward in our strategic goals. You can follow our work and read more about our Strategic Plan on our website.

It’s been my honor to serve the great state of Idaho this year, even under the strain of COVID-19, and I’m looking forward to continuing to focus on serving the people of Idaho in 2021. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

I wish all of you a safe and healthy holiday season. My next blog will be available on Jan. 8, 2021.

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