The US state of New Mexico’s Human Services Department (HSD) has implemented Microsoft Azure to boost participation in its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
In the last 10 years, the WIC programme had seen a 36 per cent decline in use. This was due to lengthy administration and screening processes involved in registering for one of the three adjunct programmes – Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – which then made it difficult to find time to apply for WIC. However, when the American Public Human Services Association issued a highly competitive grant in 2021, New Mexico saw an opportunity to integrate eligibility across federal programming and reduce the administrative process. It was the first state in the USA to do so.
“Why put our customers through multiple steps?” said Gavino Archuleta, New Mexico’s WIC programme analyst. “When they apply for one thing, if we can see that they’re adjunctively eligible for other programmes, why not approve them?”
The state’s HSD and WIC programme worked with Microsoft subsidiary Vexcel to use Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power BI to build a solution that automatically refers potential applicants to WIC based on their eligibility for, and participation in, other programmes. The individual is then notified so they are aware they can receive benefits. This removes the need for duplicate processes and increases vulnerable people’s access to key resources.
“Microsoft management gave us its blessing and invested in a further stretch than the grant allowed,” said Sarah Flores-Sievers, WIC and farmers market director for the New Mexico Department of Health. “It recognised that this would be a game changer, not only for New Mexico but also for the rest of the nation.”
Since the integration went live in 2022, more than 30,000 individuals have been notified to say they are eligible for assistance, and approximately 3,000 have been fully certified to start receiving WIC benefits. That is a five per cent increase in just over two months.
New Mexico plans to continue using Microsoft Azure capabilities to deliver innovative services, with its next step being to develop of a mobile application.
“The future is bringing the WIC programme to mothers’ fingertips,” said Christa Mitchell, the Microsoft lead for the project. “That’s where the game is really going to change.”
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