Should VSPs Switch to A Comparable Database?

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As a victim service provider, you work with vulnerable populations and must ensure that their data is safe and secure. One way to make sure this happens? Integrating a Comparable Database into your organization.

Data and Victim Service Providers

Every day, survivors of domestic violence rely on Victim Service Providers (VSPs) to help them heal. These organizations provide resources, shelters, legal support, and more to those who experience domestic violence. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines VSPs as “private nonprofit organization(s) whose primary mission is to provide direct services to victims of domestic violence.” 

The weight of working with domestic violence survivors can be demanding. In addition to focusing on vulnerable populations, VSPs need to ensure that the data they collect is kept safe and private. If there is any chance of this data leaking into the wrong hands, the consequences would go beyond losing HUD funding; it could impact the very livelihoods of those they serve.

With this responsibility in mind, VSPs need to follow strict data standards to align with HUD requirements regarding storage of personal identifying information. Per HUD, VSPs are prohibited by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) from storing this data in an Homeless Management Information System (HMIS); instead, this data should be stored in a Comparable Database, which is a HUD-approved alternative to HMIS for more safe and private storage of sensitive client information. These databases are one of the most critical HUD-recommended tools for VSPs to secure data, and could be the difference between success and disaster.

What is a Comparable Database?

So what exactly is a Comparable Database? Put simply, a comparable database is “an alternative system that victim service providers use to collect client-level data over time and to generate aggregate reports based on the data.” 

In other words, Comparable Databases are a relational database that meets all HMIS Data Standards and the minimum standards of HMIS privacy and security requirements, including HUD’s most recent reporting standards and comma separated value (CSV) format specifications. 

A Comparable Database is a relational database that meets all HMIS Data standards and the minimum standards of HMIS privacy and security requirements, including HUD’s most recent reporting standards and comma separated value (CSV) format specifications.

Due to the sensitive nature of VSP beneficiaries, organizations focused on domestic violence survivors cannot input client-level information into certified local HMIS systems under HUD standard privacy and security settings. In order to qualify for government funding, VSPs need to know whether the data they are working with requires a Comparable Database. 

Understanding what qualifies a VSP organization for a comparable database can be tricky. Luckily, our subject experts at Eccovia can help you identify whether a Comparable Database is right for your organization.

Deciding to Switch to a Comparable Database

How can VSPs know if they need to be using a Comparable Database? Consider this walk-through decision tree below that our experts at Eccovia have put together. All of the information below has been gathered from HUD’s direct website, which can be accessed here.

Should this project enter data into HMIS or a Comparable Database?

  1. Is your agency a VSP (Victim Service Provider)?

    (If YES, the agency cannot enter PII (personal identifying information) into HMIS)
    (If NO, continue to question 2).

  2. Does your agency receive funds from the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), or Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and use those funds agency-wide or for agency administrative purposes?

    (If YES, all projects, regardless of project type, are prohibited from entering PII into HMIS)
    (If NO, continue to question 3).

  3. Does your agency receive funds from FVPSA, OVC, or OVW to support specific projects?

    (If YES, those specific projects cannot enter PII into HMIS)
    (If NO, continue to question 4)

  4. All other projects must follow funding requirements for using HMIS.

View this decision tree in PDF format here.

Getting Started with a Comparable Database

The decision tree above is a great place to get started, but it’s just that: a start. Once a VSP knows if they need to switch to a comparable database, they need to integrate it into their current system. 

ClientTrack is an industry-leading case management system used by VSPs across the nation. It is fully equipped to support all requirements for both HMIS and comparable database systems. Our experts are all up to date on HUD requirements and are ready to walk you and your organization through the process of integrating a comparable database into your workflow. 

To get started with a Comparable Database, check out our VSP-specific solutions page here or reach out for a free consultation and demo with our experts. 

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