SACRAMENTO, April 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- People with disabilities and minorities often experience healthcare disparities such as lower rates of screening, difficulty accessing services and the lack of healthcare coverage. Eliminating these disadvantages and empowering consumers to take charge of their health are key priorities for California's Independent Living Centers (ILCs).Therefore when the opportunity arose in 2013, the Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Berkeley partnered with LifeLong Medical Care and the Alameda Alliance for Health (AAH) on the "LifeLong Complex Care Initiative (LCCI)" to address high-risk health issues for adults with disabilities to help them live independently and stay out of emergency rooms.
The LCCI is a three-year demonstration project funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Health Care Innovation Award of $1.1 million as well as funding from the AAH. As a collaborative partner, CIL introduced consumer-controlled services into the medical setting by providing peer coaches as members of the interdisciplinary team at three Alameda County medical centers. The team supports and educates adults with disabilities on adopting healthy behaviors and self-management skills with the primary goal of reducing avoidable and costly emergency room and hospital visits. By improving the health and lives of the individuals served, the project is expected to lower healthcare costs by approximately $1 million.
"We introduce Independent Living (IL) principles to our colleagues at the medical centers," said CIL's Bilingual Peer Coach Rebeca Servin. "Although dedicated medical providers often must emphasize health and safety above choice and independence, through our coaching, we emphasize consumer control, recognizing that people with disabilities are experts about their needs."
LCCI peer coaches guide consumers on navigating medical and non-medical systems to provide the right information and make informed choices. The peer coaches also conduct workshops on living well with a disability. Medical staff refers consumers, who have problems they want to address, to peer coaches who help the individuals identify their goals and develop a plan of action with targeted dates for completing each task. Since the inception of the LCCI, CIL has worked with an average of three to six consumers each day.
"Witnessing the dual outcomes of improved health and independence has been remarkable," noted Servin. "When we employ a 'do with' rather than a 'do for' approach, people with disabilities are empowered to move outside their comfort zones and make change happen."
One example of the outcomes of CIL's peer coaching includes a legally-blind man with Cerebral Palsy who visited the medical center and was referred to a peer coach. The coach helped him develop a plan that culminated in the consumer working with a local program to find employment and actively advocate to reinstitute paratransit services on weekends in the Oakland hills. In another instance, an individual with hearing loss was referred by medical experts to a peer coach resulting in his learning sign language and enrolling at the Berkeley Deaf Community Counseling Services while continuing to receive housing application assistance from the LCCI peer coach.
"Everything from translating healthcare information into understandable language to feet-on-the-ground education of consumers and healthcare providers can be traced to ILCs making change happen," said State Independent Living Council Executive Director Liz Pazdral. "The collaboration behind the LCCI is proving to be successful, which we hope will be implemented in other communities."
The California State Independent Living Council is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California 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)