Grant Fuels Seniors' Choices Pilot

July 10, 2006
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MUSKEGON — Three local agencies have teamed up to use a $9.1 million grant from Gov. Jennifer Granholm to help seniors and their families have an easier time with continuing care.

Dee Scott, executive director of Senior Resources of West Michigan, said the Single Point of Entry pilot project is a way for family members and caretakers of those with continuing care needs to determine the best way to serve those needs.

Also participating are the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan and HHS Health Options.

There will be an 800 number available to residents of Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa counties that will serve as the first line of access for people who need long-term care, whether it be a nursing home, in-home care, assisted living or other services.

The Community Access Line of the Lakeshore has contracted to provide service to the line in addition to the 2-1-1 services in Muskegon County.

“They have trained staff who already answers phone calls on issues like this,” Scott said.

Staff members will ask the caller questions about their situation and try to determine the options that are available.

“Then they start talking about the financial pictures, private pay, or support from the state. Then they will lay out what’s available, what the eligibility is, and talk to the family about what makes the most sense,” Scott said. The counselor will help the caller with whatever documentation is needed and help get it to the appropriate place and people. The counselor’s goal is to identify the client’s needs and work with him or her to find the best scenario for the most independence, Scott said.

“We can build services around (clients’ limitations) so they can still function independently,” she said.

Scott said one issue that needs to be addressed is what will be covered as people get older or have more limitations.

“There’s a great misconception, particularly with the elderly, that ‘When I get older, Medicare is going to cover my long-term care.’”

Tom Czerwinski, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, said the Single Point of Entry project will provide consumers with more choices and help them stay in the setting they prefer.

“It’s reforming the system so that the consumer has more control over their life,” he said.

Czerwinski said the pilot project fits perfectly with the agency’s mission of planning, coordinating and advancing programs for older adults.

Denise Zoeterman, president and CEO of the health management company HHS Health Options, said she thinks the it will help simplify the health care system, which can become fragmented.

“I think people struggle no matter where they are,” she said. “They really need somebody to be an advocate for them and somebody to be the link — really connecting the dots.”

The pilot project will be its own nonprofit, Zoeterman said, with an executive director, assistant director and administrative support.

Zoeterman said she was lucky enough to have knowledge of the choices and a staff to put the options together when her father in Chicago developed pancreatic cancer.

“Those kinds of things really make a difference for people when they’re experiencing a traumatic event, or they just don’t know where to turn,” she said. “The point of entry should be able to make those linkages. It really has a lot of potential.”

The three organizations have been awarded the grant jointly and will be working together on the pilot program.

Scott said the plan is to begin the Single Point of Entry project this month.    

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