Independent Living Centers View Partnerships As Key To Ensuring "No Wrong Door" For California Veterans Seeking Services

Nov 13, 2013, 12:47 ET from California State Independent Living Council (SILC)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- California's veterans deserve timely access to services since they served us when we needed them most. Gateways to veterans services rely on extensive collaboration among a wide array of providers. The current state of affairs often is referred to as the "Great Myth" because, in reality, only 26 percent of veterans are cared for by the Veterans Administration (VA) in any given year.

Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) Program Director, under the California Health and Human Services Agency, Karol Swartzlander agrees, "Providing optimal benefits and services for veterans requires collaboration and funding and is the reason California's seven (soon to be eight) ADRC local partnerships have a strong focus on building relationships to support cross-referrals that expedite access to services as programs grow to meet the demands of veterans and their families."

ADRCs offer consumers, including veterans, streamlined, coordinated access to long-term support services through collaboration with Independent Living Centers (ILCs), Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and other community partners, including county VA service offices and Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMCs). Collectively, they facilitate access to core ADRC services, making it markedly easier and quicker for consumers to find information and services that allow them to live in their home communities instead of in nursing facilities.

ADRCs' core services include Enhanced Information and Referral/Assistance; Options Counseling to support people with trusted information when they weigh decisions about long-term options; Short-Term Service Coordination for people who might be in danger or health risk; and Transition Services for individuals moving from hospitals or nursing facilities to their homes or community-based housing.

To minimize frustration and confusion when trying to find services, ADRCs put into practice the principle of "no wrong door" where consumers can contact an ADRC network community service or health care "door" to access the information and services they need. A no-wrong-door model is achieved through cross-training, information-sharing among providers and joint outreach efforts. AAAs and ILCs also employ what are known as "warm transfers," where the first person contacted by phone stays on the line with the consumer until another person is available to assist.

"These programs and services rely on effective resources and require funding, which is why the California State Independent Living Council (SILC) again stepped up to the plate to pursue an ADRC grant," noted SILC's Executive Director Liz Pazdral. "This year's $183,894 grant will be used to expand ADRCs' services for California's 2.2 million veterans and consumers of any age, disability and income level or source."

The grant funds will support no-wrong-door Options Counseling through staff training and streamlined procedures and collaboration among ADRCs, VAMCs and county VA service offices.

"In the last few years, the SILC ADRC funding was critical to the development of California's ADRC infrastructure as it supported the ADRC advisory committee and development of standard ADRC designation criteria and an ADRC Excel service cost tool, for example," said Swartzlander. "It has also allowed us to create a new local ADRC and expand the reach and impact of those already in place through Options Counseling training."

Additionally, support from The SCAN Foundation allowed ILC partners in San Diego and Nevada counties to work with multiple partners and a dynamic team of technical consultants on innovative models for the delivery and financing of community-based, long-term services that can be replicated in both rural and urban areas. San Diego soon will become the first county in California to implement a program and package of services the VA purchases through an ADRC to serve eligible veterans at risk of being placed in nursing facilities. The program is intended to help veterans live at home or in their communities and gives them more access, choice and control over their long-term care services.

Despite the advances made during the past few years, several challenges remain. Many community organizations still do not understand the VA, and many VA providers are not aware of the multitude of community resources. Additionally, many veterans complain about not knowing whom to contact at the VA.

"Although the no-wrong-door ADRC can address this complaint, we need to understand each other's systems to maximize the benefits to veterans," noted Swartzlander. "We're working on ways to better understand the benefits available to veterans and their families."

In addition, the state ADRC team is working to identify points of contacts with VAMCs and reaching out to local veteran services partners. Webinars will be conducted next year for VAMCs about the ADRC program and the benefits of partnering, and a webinar will be conducted for ADRCs about the VA system and how to connect with it through county VA service offices and VAMCs. Finally, training modules about the VA system will be developed for options counselors.

"It's all about strong relationships and effective communication," concluded Swartzlander. "With the new grant, we intend to strengthen our relationship with the veterans service provider network to help ensure the needs of California's veterans are met."

The California State Independent Living Council (SILC) is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living.

The SILC Mission: To Create Policy and System Change for Independent Living

SOURCE California State Independent Living Council (SILC)