NY Connects: Choices for Long Term Care
In SFY 2014-2015, an appropriation of $3,350,000 was contained in the enacted Aid to Localities bill for NY Connects: Choices for Long-Term Care (NY Connects). NY Connects serves as one of the integral components of New York State's efforts to rebalance the long term services and supports system through its emphasis on community based services and supports and person centered approach. NY Connects is a locally based "No Wrong Door" system that provides one stop access to free, objective, comprehensive information and assistance for people of all ages needing long term services and supports. The program links individuals of all ages to long term services and supports regardless of payment source; whether it be private pay, public or a combination of both. Currently, there are 53 local NY Connects programs.
NY Connects was established in 2006 by the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health. To date, there have been more than one million contacts to the program. NY Connects complies with federal statute as prescribed by the 2006 Amendments to the Older Americans Act and is recognized by the Administration on Aging (AoA) and the Administration on Community Living (ACL) as an Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). In 2007, NY Connects was statutorily mandated through section 203(8) of the New York State Elder Law.
Quantitative Report data indicates that for July 2007 - March 2014, there were 1,279,796 people who contacted the program in search of long term care information and assistance. From April 2013 - March 2014, a majority of individuals contacted NY Connects for assistance with Home Based Services (57,601), followed by Consumer and Caregiver Supports (56,427), Insurance/Benefit Information & Counseling (45,882), Residential/Housing Options and Supports (28,499), Transportation (21,102), Nutrition (15,709), Mental Health, Cognitive Status, Support Groups/Counseling (8,208), Prescriptions/Medications (7,756), Legal Services (7,555).
Through the provision of free, comprehensive, objective Information and Assistance about long term services and supports, NY Connects empowers individuals and families to identify available services and supports and choose what will best meet their needs at home, in the community and, as necessary, in residential or institutional settings.
NY Connects consists of the following fundamental components:
- Information and Assistance - Through a standardized comprehensive screening process, local NY Connects Information and Assistance Specialists provide personalized counseling to help consumers make informed decisions and can assist in accessing available long term services and support options to meet existing or future long term services and support needs. Local NY Connects programs provide Information and Assistance on available long term services and supports options to the older population, individuals of all ages with disabilities, and caregivers. Information and Assistance is available in various ways including telephone access; face to face meetings at the office, in the community or in the home; or email. Additionally an online resource directory of providers of long term services and supports, information about the different types of such services, and contact information for the local programs is available at www.nyconnects.ny.gov.
- Public Education - Public education and outreach are conducted to increase the visibility of the program and alleviate the misconception that long term services and supports can be delivered only in institutional settings.
- Long Term Care Councils - NY Connects is the first program of its kind to initiate long term services and supports reform through the creation of Local Long Term Care Councils. Long Term Care Councils in each participating county are made up of consumers, caregivers, providers, advocates, government representatives (AAA Directors, DSS Commissioners), and key stakeholders who come together to analyze the local long term services and supports system, identify gaps, duplication and barriers in the system and make recommendations for improvements. The Councils use their findings to work toward a system that is more streamlined, efficient, and responsive - a system that helps consumers remain at home and in the community.
- Options Counseling- Options Counseling is an interactive, person-centered process whereby individuals are supported in making informed long-term support decisions based on their preferences, strengths, values, abilities and resources. It includes exploring options, assisting with accessing supports/services, following-up with the individual, and may result in the development of an action plan.
In addition to the functions above, NY Connects is now undergoing a significant expansion as a result of New York State's participation in the Balancing Incentive for Payments Program (BIP). BIP provides enhanced federal funding to states that commit to rebalancing their system of long term services and supports away from institutionally based care towards home and community based services. States participating in BIP must commit to three structural changes and meet targets for community based LTSS expenditures by September 30, 2015. These structural requirements include:
- No wrong door/single entry point system (NWD/SEP)
- Conflict free case management
- A core standardized assessment instrument
The first structural change required by BIP is the availability of a state-wide fully integrated NWD/SEP system. In New York, the approach will be to enhance and expand the infrastructure and capacity of the NY Connects program. As such, NY Connects will establish formal relationships and contracts with the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Office of Mental Health (OMH), Independent Living Centers (ILCs), and other community-based organizations who assist individuals with disabilities. This new network will collectively serve as the NWD for long term services and supports. The NWD will enable capacity to accommodate all populations who need access to long term services and supports. Also under BIP, counties that do not currently operate a NY Connects program (5 and the City of New York) will be provided the opportunity to establish the program. Should the local government elect not to participate in NY Connects, then a State-selected agency will be responsible for implementing the program. This will allow for the state-wide expansion of the NY Connects program.
Through the NWD expansion, NY Connects will evolve into a more robust program and serve as the Hub of the system. The NWD will have greater capacity to respond to an increased volume and diversity of Information and Assistance requests - including more Medicaid recipients and Medicaid eligible individuals. To support the NWD expansion, a new state-wide toll free number will be established to help individuals access the system, significant enhancement will be directed to the existing nyconnects.gov resource directory website (including the integration of a new self-administered financial eligibility screening tool), a State directed public education and advertising campaign will be implemented to promote the NY Connects/No Wrong Door system, and the OPWDD and OMH partners will participate in the local long term care councils.