Latinx Needs Assessment

The Latinx population of Allegheny County is growing fast. It is important to understand this community’s demographics, geographic locations, and how our social, health and human services systems are and are not meeting their needs so we can strengthen families and advance the health and wellness that are crucial to supporting the local Latinx community.

What is the Latinx needs assessment?

In early 2020 the Latinx community asked Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) to commission a community needs assessment. DHS issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in August 2020, and a review committee selected Metis Associates as the successful proposer. The RFP is available here. Award details and the successful proposal is available here.

The assessment, which was conducted between January and September 2021, was a collaboration between Metis Associates, a research firm from New York; MonWin, an urban planning firm in Pittsburgh; and several community researchers. The assessment includes interviews with community leaders and service providers, focus groups with community members, and a review of public and administrative data sources.

In September of 2020, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and Allegheny County Emergency Services co-convened the Crisis Response Stakeholder Group (CRSG). Comprised of over 30 stakeholders from across the crisis system including representatives from 9-1-1, law enforcement, City and County government, elected officials, foundations, provider agencies and community members, the workgroup was formed to address the overreliance on emergency services for people with behavioral health needs, as well as the racial inequities that persist throughout our crisis system.

The group met regularly to map out the current crisis system and hear from a wide variety of stakeholders, including frontline staff and people in the community. They identified gaps and opportunities within the system and developed a set of 16 recommendations, which was published in February 2021.

Where can I find more information?

Visit the DHS page related to Improving Crisis Prevention and Response.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) helps more than 200,000 people each year through well-established programs and innovations that advance its mission. In addition to these day-to-day programs, DHS developed a set of “strategic initiatives” to focus on in 2019 and 2020 – developed through a planning process that involved a full review of priorities across the agency. These initiatives, of course, were planned prior to the challenges of 2020, which required DHS to be flexible and respond to new and greater needs.

The report presents these initiatives and examples of how DHS has worked with our community partners to continually improve the well-being of children, youth and adults in Allegheny County.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Allegheny County, PA, the Department of Human Services (DHS) responded with a tireless focus on the needs of providers, staff and County residents. DHS was able to streamline processes that helped feed, educate, house, protect and serve thousands of clients and residents of the County.

A first report covers DHS’s early response to the pandemic through June 2020, including establishing remote work policies, creating daily briefings for provider staff, and providing internet capability for hundreds of families and children.

A subsequent report provides an overview of later efforts through the summer, fall and winter of 2020 and into 2021, including topics such as deployment of funding and Emergency Rental Assistance, establishment of learning hubs for school-aged children and modifications to housing for people with COVID-19.

What is the DHS case competition?

Each year, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) hosts a competition for local graduate students that challenges interdisciplinary teams to solve a problem in local government.

What information is available?

Yearly reports, below, describe the case topic and students’ proposed solutions. A short video explains the event.


All reports

  • 2019: Human Service Delivery in the Gig Economy
  • 2018: Emerging Technologies to Address Human Service Problems
  • 2017: Rethinking Human Services Delivery
  • 2016: Improving Systems to Help People with Barriers Gain and Sustain Employment
  • 2015: Making Transportation Work: Creating Access and Ensuring Equity
  • 2014: Pathways to Safe and Affordable Housing for People Involved in the Human Services System
  • 2013: Building a Human Services Workforce for the 21st Century
  • 2012: Addressing Suburban Poverty and Those Affected by It
  • 2011: Reducing Stigma among Individuals with Serious Mental Illness
  • 2010: Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Pathways to the Promise
  • 2009: Building the Homewood Children’s Village
  • 2008: Greening DHS
  • 2007: The Future of DHS

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) offers free tax preparation services at its downtown location for income-eligible County residents. This data brief provides a summary of DHS’s 2019 tax assistance service, the taxpayers using the service and the volunteers who were involved. Data is from participants’ tax returns with additional information self-reported by participants.

Click here to read the report.

The Allegheny Family Screening Tool (AFST) is a predictive risk model designed to improve decision-making in Allegheny County’s child welfare system. The tool utilizes hundreds of data elements to predict the likelihood that a child referred for abuse or neglect will later experience a foster care placement. The AFST provides additional information – in conjunction with clinical judgement – to assist child welfare workers making a call screening decision.

After a multi-year process that included rigorous research, community feedback, and independent ethical review, Version 1 of the AFST started being used by call screeners in August 2016. Findings from an independent impact evaluation and a commitment to continuous improvement of the tool led to a rollout of Version 2 in December 2018 that updated the algorithm, data sources, and associated policies.

View a comprehensive packet on the AFST that provides all of the County’s published research and partner evaluations to date or select from the following documents:

Click here to access recent press coverage of the AFST.

Allegheny County Medicaid recipients are entitled to free transportation assistance to their non-emergency medical appointments. Traditionally, this transportation has been provided by paratransit vehicles for those not able to utilize public transportation or their own vehicle. The advent of ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber has presented a new, rider-friendly option. This report describes a pilot program that tested the viability and user experience of ride-hailing services for people using medical assistance transportation.

Click here to read the report.

When a child is placed in a foster home, the resulting move can also mean living in a new school district. Research has shown that unplanned school changes can lead to worse educational outcomes, such as lower test scores and graduation rates. A 2015 federal mandate, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires that children in child welfare placements remain in their home school – unless it is determined not to be in the student’s best interest – so as to maximize a student’s stability and educational outcomes.

In response, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services took advantage of a wealth of data and strong school partnerships to develop a collaborative, child-centered process that helps children in child welfare placements maintain school stability whenever possible. The result was hundreds of students continuing to attend their home school in the 2016-17 school year.

Read the full report to learn about how DHS responded, challenges we faced, and results from the first year of implementation.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) continuously strives to better understand our clients’ experiences and incorporate that feedback into service planning. We recently tested satisfaction kiosks as a new way of collecting feedback. The wireless kiosks were placed in a variety of service locations and asked clients to indicate their satisfaction by pressing a button, with the results quickly and anonymously sent to DHS. Staff and clients responded positively to the pilot, and we were able to collect feedback on a range of services. Building on the success of the pilot, we are continuing to employ innovative technology to hear from the people we serve.

This series of three reports gives an overview of the kiosk pilot program and then takes a closer look at ways the kiosks are helping us better understand our clients.

Piloting Satisfaction Kiosks: Overview, Implementation and Insights
Read about how the pilot was implemented, examples of survey questions, lessons learned, and next steps for building on the success of the pilot.

Satisfaction Kiosk Findings: Clients’ Overall Satisfaction
This data brief describes the results of six different survey questions that asked DHS clients about their overall satisfaction. Some clients responded to the question, “How did you feel about the service you received today?” while others were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as, “I feel better than when I came in” and “I felt heard today by staff.”

Satisfaction Kiosk Findings: Clients’ Experience with Homelessness and Housing Services
This data brief describes the results of survey questions that were asked of some clients who visited housing and homelessness programs. Clients used kiosks to give feedback on service quality, their unmet needs, and interest in possible future programming.

Allegheny County Data Warehouse

Learn more about the Data Warehouse

What is the Allegheny County Data Warehouse?

The Allegheny County Data Warehouse brings together and integrates client and service data from a wide variety of sources both internal and external to the County.

How was the Data Warehouse developed?

The Data Warehouse was created by consolidating publicly-funded human services data (e.g., behavioral health, child welfare, developmental supports, homelessness and aging) and, over time, expanded to include data from other sources. The Data Warehouse was made possible with support from the Human Service Integration Fund, a flexible funding pool created by a coalition of local foundations for the purpose of supporting integration and innovation within DHS.

How does the Data Warehouse support of the work of Allegheny County?

The Data Warehouse was designed primarily to improve services to clients, but also to improve the ability of workers to perform their jobs and to support management decisionmaking; it is also intended to be available as a community resource, making data and information publicly available whenever possible.

Where can I learn more?

  • This overview document describes the development of the Data Warehouse, the County’s data sharing partnerships, and how the data is utilized to support client services and decisionmaking. 

In an effort to provide affirming services to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer/questioning) communities involved with Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services (DHS), the first Department-wide LGBTQ work group began in 2009. At that time, sexual orientation and gender identity were not frequently discussed as part of DHS practice. By 2016, DHS had made great strides in affirming LGBTQ communities. Work within DHS and with community partners led to written practice guidance related to gender and sexuality, improved understanding of bias in the workplace, the creation of an LGBTQ advisory council, and improved data collection related to gender and sexuality.

This report shares DHS’s experiences from 2009 through 2016 as it worked to better understand and serve the LGBTQ communities of Allegheny County. We share our strategies, challenges and lessons learned with the hope that others can learn from them.

Click here to read the report. 

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), in partnership with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, has been offering free tax preparation in several locations throughout the County since 2011. Thirteen trained volunteers helped 343 clients in need prepare returns last year. Collectively, these clients received a total federal refund of $519,645, at no cost to them. This brief includes demographic information about the taxpayers who received DHS tax assistance services and the overall results of the 2017 program.

Click here to read the brief. 

Allegheny County, like much of Western Pennsylvania, is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic and it is vitally important that County residents have access to the best and most effective treatment to support their recovery from opioid use disorders. Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, combines medication and counseling/behavioral therapy and, when clinically appropriate, is a standard of care in the treatment of opioid use disorders. Research has proven MAT to be highly effective in improving recovery outcomes and reducing criminal behavior and risk of infectious disease.

The Allegheny County Departments of Health and Human Services, together with Allegheny HealthChoices, Inc. and Community Care Behavioral Health, issued a Joint Position Statement on Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders in Allegheny County, describing their expectations for contracted treatment providers and others who encounter or serve individuals with opioid use disorders. It states that every person entering substance use treatment for opioid use is entitled to the opportunity to learn about and consider MAT as a treatment option. It is intended to dispel ambiguity and should be understood as a clear statement in support of an effective treatment continuum that includes MAT.

Click here to view the full joint position statement.

Receiving more than 3,000 calls annually, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Director’s Action Line (DAL) is an effective mechanism through which clients and other community members can resolve issues and get information about DHS services. It is also an important feedback tool for DHS, providing information about client experiences and perceptions of the services they receive. An evaluation was conducted of both of these functions, and the findings led to valuable insights and recommendations for improving outreach and follow-up.

Click here to view the full report.