« March 2014 Issue

Hartford Grant Lends Geriatrics Expertise to Voices for Better Health

Voices for Better Health was given an exciting boost last fall when Community Catalyst received a grant from The John A. Hartford Foundation to help impart expertise from within the geriatric field to the program’s efforts. Voices for Better Health was launched in June of 2013 with funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies to advance the best models of integrated care for the nation's 10 million older adults and people with disabilities who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. Coalitions in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington are partnering to bring the perspectives of beneficiaries to all phases of the design and implementation of their states’ dual eligible demonstration projects.  

The success of these demonstrations requires alliances between consumers and provider organizations to advocate for high quality integrated care for the dually eligible amidst the voices emphasizing the search for cost savings. To that end, the Hartford grant will bring geriatric and gerontological evidence-based best practices and the voices of frontline providers into the advocacy surrounding the demonstration projects.

The John A. Hartford Foundation has been a leader for decades in funding academic research and education in geriatric medicine, nursing and social work. In 2012, the foundation adopted a new strategic plan that includes the aim of helping “influence the design and implementation of federal and state health care policies that impact older adults.” This year the foundation launched the Hartford Change AGEnts Initiative, which is providing opportunities for the thousands of providers in Hartford’s network to gain new knowledge and acquire skills necessary to mobilize for action on policy issues that bring about improvements in health care and quality of life for older adults.

Marcus Escobedo, a program officer at the Hartford Foundation, notes that the timing was ideal for partnering with Voices for Better Health. “The Hartford Foundation has supported thousands of health care professionals who have expertise and passion for delivering high-quality care to older adults,” Escobedo said. “Through our grant with Community Catalyst, we hope to help these geriatrics experts join forces with powerful coalitions of patients, families and advocates at this critical time when there is an opportunity to influence the way care is delivered to vulnerable dually eligible beneficiaries.”

The work made possible by this new funding is taking several paths. Each Voices for Better Health state coalition is teaming with two geriatric experts to help bring the voices of providers into their advocacy work. Dr. Gregg Warshaw, a family physician-geriatrician and a 2013-2014 Atlantic Philanthropies Health and Aging Policy Fellow/American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, is an advisor to Voices for Better Health and one of two experts working with the Ohio Consumer Voices for Integrated Care coalition.

He is enthusiastic about the power of these collaborations. “I am convinced that well-established geriatrics and gerontology care principles and best practices have the potential to increase quality of care and reduce the cost of services to vulnerable dually eligible populations,” Dr. Warshaw said. “As a clinician caring for the frail elderly, working with Community Catalyst and its partners in my state of Ohio, I am excited to be actively engaged in this planning and advocating for implementation of the best possible models of care.”

Along with Carol Regan, senior advisor to Voices for Better Health, Dr. Warshaw is helping to identify opportunities to engage geriatric providers in our overall national and state advocacy and in the development of educational materials and webinars to support the policy and practice changes. Also, geriatrics experts participated in panels at the first Voices for Better Health convening, and will be involved in future convenings and learning community calls with state partners.

The Voices for Better Health newsletter, “The Dual Agenda,” has begun featuring an occasional Eldercare Voices column, inviting guest commentators directly involved in care delivery to older adults to share their perspectives from the field. The contributors work on the the front lines of care and include a range of providers including geriatricians, nurses, social workers, home care workers, pharmacists and community based providers.

"The new dimension that the infusion of geriatrics expertise is bringing to our collaborative efforts is very exciting, both for our advocates, and also for providers who have spent years doing groundbreaking work in the care of older adults," said Renée Markus Hodin, Voices for Better Health program director. “Working together, we can build a better health care system: one that older adults and people with disabilities can rely on to meet their needs and maintain their independence and dignity."

-- Bruce Gore, communications coordinator

O N   T H E   W I R E

Community Catalyst and 300 state and local groups sent a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ensure all consumers who have made a good faith effort to get covered can enroll in coverage. Last week HHS announced anyone who is “in line” for coverage on March 31 will be able to enroll.

Community Catalyst welcomed Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, as the newest member of our board of directors.

Community Catalyst Board member Karen Hicks, project manager for Covering New Hampshire, was quoted in an NPR story on ACA enrollment in New Hampshire.

Edna and Sally’s story, a video created by Voices for Better Health, was featured on The Huffington Post during Black History Month.

The Association of Health Care Journalists took note of Dental Access Project Director David Jordan and other oral health advocates’ efforts to expand access to care.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Alberto Gonzalez, Carol Regan, Candice Singer and Natasha Tyagi.

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