HUDSON–With many people seeking to “age in place” or care for a disabled person in the most homelike environment possible, there has perhaps never been a greater need for factual information about available long-term care services and support. In response to this large and growing need, the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium this week launched NY Connects, Columbia County.
The new program will provide information and referral services on long-term care for the elderly and disabled people of all ages. The topics covered by NY Connects, Columbia County include:
*Home delivered meals
*Respite and palliative care
*Housing options, and other related services.
It’s a single point of entry to the system of services, according to a release announcing the program. The process starts by a call to the program’s hotline: (518) 828-CARE (2273) or (877) 260-9244 (toll free). At the other end of the phone will be information and resource specialist Lynda Scheer, who sees her job as “breaking down the silos of our different agencies through information and open communication.”
Ms. Scheer will obtain basic information from callers, using a screening tool, in order to understand what services will best match their request. Then, armed with a database of local agencies from within the county as well as neighboring counties and states, Ms Scheer will provide callers with a list of providers via phone, mail, or in person.
The list, according to Ms. Scheer, will be “unbiased,” including public and private, not-for-profit and for-profit providers that offer the services requested by the caller. It is up to the consumer to choose which provider to contact, Ms Scheer added.
Importantly, callers are given the name and phone number of a specific person who has been designated by the provider as the point of contact for NY Connects referrals. Ms Scheer said this will help consumers avoid “getting lost in voicemail systems.” That contact person will then stay with the consumer throughout the process of securing services from within that agency or, if needed, other agencies.
This inter-agency “partnering,” as Ms, Scheer described it, should help consumers avoid having to repeatedly provide the same information to different providers. A few days after providing the information, Ms Scheer will follow up with the consumer and the referral contact to check on the status of the referral.
Ms. Scheer has been with the Healthcare Consortium since September, working on compilation of the service database as well as forging connections with the service providers. In the coming months she plans to visit each provider to obtain “a first-hand understanding” of what they do.
Prior to joining the consortium, Ms. Scheer served as the town clerk for the town of Gallatin and sat on numerous human services committees at the county level. Helping people affected by storms and blackouts to access emergency services served as a training ground for her current information and referral role, she said.
NY Connects is a statewide program jointly administered by the state Office for the Aging and the state Department of Health. According to the NY Connects website, the agencies “are working collaboratively to fulfill a vision of a restructured and accessible long-term care system that supports the consumer’s choice and independence and provides affordable services that meet their individual needs.”
The agencies define long-term care as “medical and non-medical support services needed to improve or maintain ones’ health and/or daily function.” The website says may be provided at a person’s home or at community-based and residential settings. Under the program’s guidelines, consumers of long-term care services include adults and children with disabilities.”
The most recent US Census estimates show that nearly 17% of Columbia County’s 62,200 residents are 65 or older. And in the last full census, taken in the year 2,000, there were nearly 11,000 people, also equal to 17% of the population, who had a “disability.” There is undoubtedly some overlap between the two groups, although the available data do not say how large the overlap is.
NY Connects is part of the national movement to promote a single coordinated system of long-term care information and assistance. As required by program guidelines, Columbia County has established a Long Term Care Council (LTCC) that consists of government agencies, service providers and a consumer advocate. The council is charged with helping evaluate the long term-care system on an ongoing basis. Among the activities to be conducted under the auspices of the council is provider cross training, scheduled for November 18, as well as the performance of a gap analysis, due out at the end of this year.
For further information about the NY Connects program, visit: www.nyconnects.org.