Award-Winning Programs

NACO 2020 Achievement Award Winners

As the nation’s fastest-growing county, it is essential to have a team of innovators with compassionate hearts, and a strong love for people. The Maricopa County workforce is strong. Our employees strive to provide families with the tools they need to not only survive, but thrive.

Congratulations to this year's team of innovators. You should be proud of your accomplishments, and the lives these programs have touched along the way. You can view this year's awards by the following categories:


Project Green Line
Awarded Department: Assessor 

Sometimes, it’s changes to our processes, not our programs, that yield the best results. The Property Ownership and GIS Mapping Division of the Assessor’s Office has proven that with the success of Project Green Line, a process improvement project which has changed how division staff map new subdivisions, update property ownership records, and adjust a public-facing parcel map. Among the improvements, they eliminated a third-party vendor that was causing three-week delays in getting deeds and recorded documents from the Recorder’s Office to Assessor’s Office staff. Since Project Green Line was implemented, division staff have been able to achieve a 13% average annual increase in the number of split parcels mapped; a 31% increase in subdivisions mapped; a significant reduction in lag time between the time a document is recorded and the time property ownership records are updated (15 to 3 days); and a 6% reduction in mapping errors.

Centralizing Court-Ordered Competency Evaluations
Awarded Department: Correctional Health Services 

Correctional Health Services partnered with the Sheriff’s Office and Superior Court to implement a program to centralize competency evaluations. This program unites in-custody defendants from all five jails with the Mental Health Experts who are court-ordered to evaluate them at the secure downtown court complex. The program reduced travel time for the Mental Health Experts, who now perform their scheduled evaluations sooner and submit their reports earlier. These efficiencies contribute to a reduction in the length of stay for in-custody defendants.

eMaintenance Program for Flood Control Operations & Maintenance
Awarded Department: Flood Control 

Flood Control District staff create work orders to address maintenance and repair issues that that come up during inspections of flood control structures. Tracking these work orders used to be time-consuming, with inspectors and field supervisors needing about two hours per day to input data in the system. A new web-based system, designed in-house, has simplified the process to the point that data input only takes about 20-30 minutes per day. This system is also easier to use, meaning leadership and administration can quickly access data for planning and budgeting purposes as well.

Volunteer 13K
Awarded Department: Human Resources

Employees helping one another. That's the idea behind "Volunteer 13K", a program that provides employees from across the County a chance to assist other departments with important projects. This allows for greater interaction across departments, increased awareness of County services, and an opportunity to fulfill every employee’s dedication to the community. Employees are provided up to eight hours of paid leave time per year targeted specifically for use on these projects. 13,000 County employees + unlimited volunteer spirit = Volunteer 13K!

Volunteer 13K Video >

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A Focus on Workforce Wellbeing: Healthy Arizona Worksites On-line (HAWP 101) Training
Awarded Department: Public Health 

Maricopa County’s Healthy Arizona Worksites Program (HAWP) developed HAWP 101, an on-line curriculum for a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to worksite wellness. The training provides free access to employers anytime, anywhere, and removes the barrier of having to travel to attend in-person training. 

The virtual training includes embedded videos, interactive quizzes, and is broken into four modules no longer than 30 minutes each. In addition, the program has provided support, tools, and resources to design, implement, and evaluate worksite wellness initiatives.

Empowered Youth Leaders
Awarded Department: Public Health (Office of School Health and Wellness) 

Young People Empowered to Change the World. It might sound like a superhero slogan, but it’s what’s behind the concept of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR); and the foundation of the Empowered Youth Leaders program. It provides youth with life skills and tools to transition to adulthood in a productive, healthy way. It also teaches them how to identify a community issue, conduct research, create surveys to collect data from the community, and then use the data to develop and implement an action plan to address the issue. 

The first Empowered Youth Leaders program was implemented in the Maryvale and Sunnyslope areas in the summer of 2018. It has successfully engaged youth, with an 82% attrition rate for a yearlong program.  

According to the program evaluations, youth reported having better public health knowledge, better understanding of what makes a community healthy, more likely to be involved in their community and feel a stronger connection to their community. 

Food Waste Reduction and Recovery in Maricopa County Schools Program
Awarded Department: Public Health (Office of School Health and Wellness)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is part of the U.S. domestic hunger safety net and provides economic benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families for food purchases. SNAP-Ed (SNAP-Education) is the nutrition promotion and obesity-prevention component of SNAP. The SNAP-Ed School Health team’s goal is to improve the likelihood that low-income individuals, including children eligible for free or reduced lunch or other child nutrition programs, will make healthy choices and choose physically active lives. 

The Department of Public Health’s team of registered dietitians and health educators work within low-income Maricopa County schools to increase school meal participation and decrease food waste.

Harm Reduction: A Response to the Opioid Epidemic in a Large Urban County Jail
Awarded Department: Correctional Health 

Just a month after the opioid crisis was declared a statewide emergency, Correctional Health Services partnered with the Sheriff’s Office to implement the Harm Reduction Program. The goal of the program is to reduce the risk of fatalities for released inmates suffering from opioid misuse. Between July 2017 and January 2020, 11,465 incarcerated individuals learned how to recognize signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose and how to administer a potentially life-saving drug called naloxone, which can reverse the deadly effects of an overdose. The program allows participants to take naloxone with them following their release from custody, and 6,481 people have already done so. This innovative program ensures more people with Opioid Use Disorder have direct access to a life-saving measure when they are at highest risk for relapse and overdose. Since most individuals incarcerated in Maricopa County jails are released to the community in less than thirty days, this program has a swift and significant impact on the well-being of the community as a whole.

Opioid Video >

Innovations in Care: TIP Justice Health Clinics
Awarded Department: Adult Probation 

A medical clinic inside a probation office? If it sounds unusual, that’s because it is. But justice health clinics are just one of the ways Adult Probation is innovating to provide better outcomes for individuals on probation. You see, many justice-involved individuals place a low priority on health care, with some ignoring treatment altogether and others relying more heavily on expensive emergency room and urgent care visits. To try to address these challenges, Adult Probation partnered with Terros Health to co-locate probation services with integrated health care services at four different sites around Maricopa County. In the most recent year of the program, more than 1,800 individuals on probation received care at the co-located facilities.

The Online Opioid Education Course for High School Athletes
Awarded Department: Public Health 

Prescription opioid abuse is a problem for high school athletes because they have easy access to medications and feel pressure to play through the pain to get back into the game.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many resources available to address this issue. That’s why the Department of Public Health (PH) created “The Game You Can’t Win,” a 30-minute, interactive, e-learning course that educates high school athletes about the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids. Designed as an animated cartoon strip it includes a variety of multimedia, story-driven, sports-related scenarios as well as gaming elements. Available in English and Spanish it cost the Department of Public Health $188,000 to produce.

Starting in 2021, students who want to play in sports associated with the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) will be required to complete “The Game You Can’t Win.” This requirement is expected to result in approximately 150,000 Arizona students completing the course in the first year with an additional 81,000 students completing it annually .

The course was created through a partnership between the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), and the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family.

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Early Education Extended Day Partnership Braided Funding Model
Awarded Department: Human Services 

To get high-quality early education to more low-income kids in Tempe, the Early Education Division partnered with the City of Tempe and Tempe Unified School District to provide full day (up to 10 hours) full year early care and education services. By combining resources, three- and four-year-old’s are able to get a fuller educational experience and their parents are able to receive needed family support services including parent education and workforce opportunities. The partnership resulted in children who met or exceeded age-level expectations, elevated family engagement, and in higher compensation and retention for early educators. This collaborative approach to serving our most vulnerable children and families can serve as a model for other publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs to leverage funding streams with Head Start.

Head Start Video >

Emergency Host Home: Providing Youth Experiencing Homelessness Housing
Awarded Department: Human Services 

Maricopa County Human Services Department partnered with the Catholic Charities and Homeless Youth Connection to acquire and renovate a home that will serve as a safe, Emergency Host Home for homeless youth (ages 17-24) to stay while they’re waiting for a more permanent solution. After staying in the Emergency Host Home, students are placed with a host family and supported as they complete high school. All the services are free to the students. The Emergency Home provides immediate housing to a total of 5 youth at a time, and, is equipped to assist up to 60 youth annually.

Senior and Adult Services Division – Case Aide Model
Awarded Department: Human Services 

Sometimes the helpers need a helping hand. That was the case in the Senior and Adult Services Division of the Human Services Department. Case managers were carrying exceptionally heavy caseloads of 130 or more clients while still trying to provide high-quality care to seniors and adults with disabilities in Maricopa County. The Division decided to add three case aides to their team of 22 case managers. These case aides provide essential administrative support to the entire case management team and are the front-line customer service representatives for the Division, among other duties. Their work allows the case managers to spend more time with clients addressing their complex and unique psychosocial needs. In Calendar Year 2019, case aides documented more than 3,680 hours of administrative support and touched the lives of 20,625 clients. This amounts to a savings of 167 hours of administrative time per case manager per year.

Workforce Development Coordinator Partnership Model
Awarded Department: Human Services 

Maricopa County is so big that it can be challenging to ensure everyone has equal access to services.  The Workforce Development Division of the Human Services Department operates two career centers in metro Phoenix where job seekers and employers can find resources, but for a town like Wickenburg, the closest of these career centers is 57 miles away.  To address this challenge, the County is partnering with several cities and towns to share the cost of a full-time “Workforce Development Coordinator.”  This person works in their own town, city, or municipality (Wickenburg, for example) to provide services that fit the unique needs of that population.  In 2019, the Workforce Development Coordinator in Wickenburg helped to place 125 people into jobs, in addition to providing training for local businesses and employees and organizing quarterly career fairs.  Through these partnerships, the County Workforce Development Division is able to have five full-time staff meeting the needs of job seekers and businesses in local communities while paying for only two.

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information technology   

Educational Podcast System
Awarded Department: Justice Courts

Judicial officers in the Maricopa County Justice Courts do not simply learn a case type and call it good for the rest of their career; they must complete continuing education classes to fairly apply the law in the wide variety of civil and criminal cases they hear. While annual judicial conferences satisfy these requirements, they do not necessarily provide judges with all of the information they need, in an easily accessible way. Enter the Educational Podcast System. Podcasts can be produced and distributed quickly and can provide up-to-date information immediately. The podcasts have been a great resource for rural judges in Arizona who would otherwise have to travel significant distances to receive the information and judges pro tem who serve part-time in the justice court. They have also been extremely popular with judges in high-volume courts, some of whom do not want to spend tax dollars to pay a substitute judge to cover their court while they attend a brief judicial education program.

eFile Auto Accept - Automatic Docketing of Electronic Filings
Awarded Department: Clerk of the Superior Court

Automation is the way of the future, and it’s certainly not all bad. The Clerk of the Superior Court’s “eFile Auto Accept” automatically creates docket entries from electronically filed documents that are in the court record, meaning Clerk’s Office staff doesn’t have to manually create the docket entries. This is great when the documents are simple and straight forward. It also allows staff to focus their time and energy on more complex docketing. In short: there’s less busy work for staff, and they can be more efficient. External customers benefit, too, from a quicker, streamlined process.

PCN Recon
Awarded Department: Office of Enterprise Technology

The County uses Position Control Numbers (PCNs) to track and identify the number of its positions by coding a position to a specific department. It then uses a PCN Reconciliation Process (PCN Recon) to handle the large amount of position changes that happen at the beginning of a new fiscal year. The PCN Reconciliation Application, created by OET Advance Services, automates and streamlines this process by collecting position change information from over 40 county departments and then consolidating, reconciling and loading the information into the Human Resources Management System (HRMS). Under the initial PCN run, the county budget department saw a 33% reduction in effort to perform this task.

Restitution, Fines/Fees & Reimbursements (RFR) System Replacement Project
Awarded Department: Clerk of the Superior Court

More than $27 million in payments ran through the Clerk’s Office in the last fiscal year, related to fees or fines that defendants have to pay. That’s a lot of money to manage and, in some cases, distribute. RFR (Restitution, Fine/Fees & Reimbursements) is the system that keeps track of all this cash and keeps the record of who owes what. The old system had been in use for 23+ years. The new version of RFR, which went live in late 2019, was built in-house and provides ease of navigation, improved search functionality, advanced reporting, and increased application security. All-in-all, a more efficient government system for a very important job.

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The Art of Fighting in the Ring and Not in Our Community
Awarded Department: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

The Community Outreach Division of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office established a partnership with the Guadalupe Boxing Gym in November of 2018. Through this partnership, the MCSO mentors 30 youth participants of the Guadalupe Boxing Gym. This includes training, exhibitions, social work, and tournament participation. MCSO employees facilitated mentoring sessions and interacted with the youth utilizing workshops, group therapy, and parent meetings.

Boxing Gym Video >

Connecting Low Risk Offenders to Peer Support and Services
Awarded Department: Correctional Health

Correctional Health Services partnered with Southwest Behavioral Health Services to create the Criminal Justice Engagement Team (CJET) program. This early-intervention program targets low-risk, Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI), newly-incarcerated individuals at the Maricopa County Jails. The goal of the program is to facilitate early release from jail, thereby reducing the length of stay and the associated harmful effects of incarceration. The program utilizes peer support staff from community agencies to identify and recruit eligible program participants. These staff members collaborate with participants to develop a safe and effective community release plan for consideration by the Court. If approved, the Sheriff's Office releases the participant directly to CJET staff within 24 hours after the initial court appearance. The CJET team provides ongoing navigation services to link participants with community behavioral health services and transportation to ensure their appearance at court proceedings. In the past two calendar years, 71% of CJET participants followed through with their community release plans by accepting peer support services upon release.

The Mesa Miles Project -- Tackling Opioid Overdoses and Crime
Awarded Department: Adult Probation 

Adult Probation collaborated with Mesa Police to bring down crime in a section of Central Mesa that is both high in crime and among the worst in the state for opioid overdoses. The Mesa Miles Project first targeted high-risk individuals on probation in the area, and later, focused on those suspected to be involved in opioid or fentanyl distribution. The collaboration enabled police officers to be a part of probation visits, and thus, with both agencies present, they were able to conduct searches or make arrests, if necessary. To date, the project has resulted in more than 20 arrests and the location of 1,105 fentanyl pills, more than 100 grams of methamphetamine, more than two pounds of heroin, 11 loaded firearms, and three stolen firearms.

Seriously Mentally Ill Program's Justice Series Training
Awarded Department: Adult Probation

The Maricopa County Adult Probation Department’s Seriously Mentally Ill Program provides specialized supervision of individuals on probation who are seriously mentally ill (SMI). Probation officers rely on collaboration with behavioral health clinics in our community to assist clients, but it turns out, the clinical teams were unfamiliar with the “ins” and “outs” of probation and court processes which was creating some barriers. Adult Probation worked with Mercy Care on a series of trainings to close the knowledge gap, leading to more informed clinical teams and better service to clients. 

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All Abilities Activity Program
Awarded Department: Library District

Libraries are community hubs. Besides connecting people to information, libraries are places for community engagement. Realizing that people with special needs are less likely to engage with their local library, the Northwest Regional Library created its All Abilities Activity Program in October 2019. Programming has included hands-on activities like mini escape rooms, life-sized games, vision boards, and musical painting. The activities that are selected encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity and/or teamwork, and can be adapted to accommodate the unique needs of the participants.

Participation has steadily increased. The initial program welcomed one adult day center with 16 attendees. By the end of 2019 the program had 50 participants from three different day centers, and in 2020 people from the wider community were also attending. The library is now able to serve the nearly 10,000 adult community members with disabilities and has fostered closer ties with social service non-profits and local adult day centers.

LGBTQ+ Allies Monthly Game Night
Awarded Department: Library District 

The Library District, in partnership with the Surprise LGBTQ+ Allies Club, hosts a monthly game night for the LGBQ+ community. In addition to munching on snacks and playing games in a safe and inclusive space, participants learn about library and community resources.

Rising Writers
Awarded Department: Library District 

Ernest Hemingway said “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” But it doesn’t have to be. The Rising Writers program, developed and housed by the North Valley Regional Library, creates community among local writers by providing them with space to write and a forum to receive constructive feedback.

An active group of 8-14 writers has met weekly since August 2016 when they completed the library’s Turning Memories into Memoirs workshop. Multiple members have become published writers and others have made progress in their personal writing projects. It’s also group therapy – the sessions allow the writers to express themselves more openly and effectively. And it’s not lonely!

Rising Writers has also inspired additional writing programs: 

  • Students interviewed and wrote the life stories for more than 60 veterans through the Veterans Heritage Project. There stories are now a part of history and are housed at the Library of Congress. 
  • Teen writers participated in the National Novel Writing Month.
  • The Writers in Residency program provided consulting time with published authors Tina Radcliffe and Sara Ella.

Space Camp
Awarded Department: Library District 

Space: the final frontier. Its nine-week mission was for pre-teens to explore the concept of space in engaging and interactive ways. Thirty astronauts in training attended the Southeast Regional Library’s Space Camp program in the summer of 2019. 

They learned about the constellations and created viewfinders from toilet paper rolls. They used Oreo cookies to replicate the phases of the moon. They trained for space travel with physical fitness challenges like standing on one foot while passing a ball around a circle. They even made a grocery list for their trip that included ingredients for a space snack - astronaut pudding. 

Space Camp left a lasting impression on the tweens by exposing them to non-traditional ways of learning about science and encouraging them to boldly go where no one has gone before! 

Tales and Ales
Awarded Department: Library District 

Here’s a novel idea: a book club that meets at a bar. “Tales and Ales” takes books from the collection of the county’s Queen Creek Library and transports them into a local brewery, where between 15-25 people meet every month for a lively discussion about literature and happy hour prices. “Tales and Ales” is all about bringing new people into the library fold. During the pandemic, they’ve adapted the concept to a virtual setting.

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personnel management/training   

Fugitive Apprehension Unit's Safety Training Day Program
Awarded Department: Adult Probation

We can all appreciate time savers. Adult Probation developed a new training program for its Fugitive Apprehension Unit that consolidates 20 hours of training over multiple days into one comprehensive eight-hour training, saving the team about 288 hours annually. This is time that can now be spent in the field, doing investigations and making arrests. The Fugitive Apprehension Unit has made more than 4,500 arrests over the past two fiscal years, and the new training has allowed the officers to stay safe while doing so, with no serious injuries to officers reported during that period.

New Judge Pro Tem Training Program
Awarded Department: Justice Courts

We can all benefit from additional learning opportunities, and that’s true for the folks serving in our Justice Courts, too. The New Judge Pro Tem Training Program helps improve the quality and consistency of justice rendered by these part-time, substitute judges. As part of the revised program, new judges pro tem now receive nearly twice the amount of judicial education before beginning their bench training as they had in the past. 

But the enhancements did not stop there. To facilitate accountability and confidence, two further documents came into being. The Pro Tem Checklist, helps judges and pro tems identify competencies in multiple areas. Judges who sponsor these pro tems also receive Sponsor Expectations, a guide with timelines for which various portions of bench training should be completed. 

The new training program provides heightened consistency and excellence from the Bench.

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PUBLIC education/information   

Be Air Aware: An Air Pollution Education Program
Awarded Department: Air Quality

Much of the air pollution in Maricopa County comes from our activities and lifestyle choices. Air Quality is empowering the next generation to reduce air pollution through the “Be Air Aware” education program. Lesson plans and resource kits produced by the department during the pilot program enabled educators to teach more than 4,600 students across 15 school districts how the actions we take impact air quality in both positive and negative ways. Air Quality is now creating more resource kits to expand access.

Office of the Medical Examiner, Medicolegal Death Investigator Trainer
Awarded Department: Office of the Medical Examiner

The Office of the Medical Examiner (MCOME) created a Medicolegal Death Investigator (MDI) Trainer position in 2015, after identifying gaps in knowledge and communication between the Office and its stakeholders.

The MDI Trainer helps close those gaps by providing training and education to internal staff and external community members and partners. As a result, more accurate information is being shared, there is a greater understanding of MCOME’s roles and responsibilities in conducting an independent death investigation, and the effectiveness of many partnerships has improved.

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RIsk & emergency management   

Hepatitis A Outbreak Response
Awarded Department: Public Health

It’s hard to imagine now, but just a few months before COVID-19, there was another outbreak that required a big response from Maricopa County Public Health: an increase in Hepatitis A cases in 2019. Investigation of these cases identified three common risk factors: drug use, homelessness or unstable housing, and recent incarceration. Public Health, working with its partners in the county jails, took a targeted approach, providing the Hepatitis A vaccine to all inmates during the intake process at Maricopa County jails. This single action helped bring down the infection rate by approximately 89% within 4 months at a cost of $2.5 million which is substantially less than outbreaks of similar magnitude in other jurisdictions.

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