NY Connects: Choices for Long Term Care
NY Connects: Choices for long-term care (NY Connects) plays a pivotal role in public access to long term care information at the community and at state level. NY Connects is a state program that is implemented on the county level to improve access to long term services and supports through coordinated Information and Assistance. It minimizes confusion, supports informed decision-making and enhances consumer choice. It connects consumers of all ages needing long term care to the necessary services and supports regardless of available payment source; be it private pay, public or a combination of both.
Navigating the long term care system in order to access needed information and services is complex, costly, and difficult. Long term services and supports are administered by multiple agencies and providers and are supported by numerous funding sources. Individuals in need must contact multiple agencies to obtain information and access services. In addition, the need for long term services and supports will dramatically increase due to the impending demographic shift of individuals over the age of 60. As part of the national movement to redesign long term care , New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), in collabortation with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) , established NY Connects in 2006, to improve New York's long term care system to make it more effective, cost efficient and accessable.
Local NY Connects programs provide comprehensive, unbiased information on long term services and supports and can assist with linking to those services and supports. Through its organizational structure, which includes a formal collaboration between the local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and the local Departments of Social services (DSS), NY Connects creates efficiency through consolidation and streamlining across agencies that serve mutual consumers (e.g. shared staffing and client tracking systems, co-location of staff, etc.).
NYSOFA has invested significant resources to increase public access to information about long term care resources and supports via a web-based Long Term Care Resource Directory. Through a contract with RTZ Associates, Inc., NY Connects has developed an online database of long term services and supports. The directory contains publicly funded, not-for-profit and for-profit/proprietary provider listings and will be made available to the public through the NY Connects.
Local Long Term Care Councils, made up of staff from the local AAA and DSS, and stakeholders at the community level-- including consumers and advocates, are charged with developing a more cost-effective and responsive local long term care system and have produced tangible reform in many areas of the long term care system.
NY Connects defines long term care as medical and non-medical supports and services needed to improve or maintain one's health and daily living. Such services may be provided in the individual's residence and other community-based settings. Examples of the vast array of long term services and supports include, but are not limited to transportation, home care, respite, home delivered meals, personal care services, and home modifications and repairs. Through provision of free, comprehensive, unbiased Information and Assistance about these services, NY Connects promotes the most integrated long term care setting and empowers consumers to identify appropriate types of services to prevent or delay the need for more costly institutional care. 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 supports options to meet existing or future long term care needs. Local NY Connects programs provide Information and Assistance on available long term services and supports options specific to the sixty and older population, individuals of all ages with physical disabilities, and caregivers. Information and Assistance is available in various ways including telephone access, face to face meetings, off-site accommodation for people with special needs or email. Many local programs also have a local web site. Access to a web-based long term care resource directory will be available to NY Connects staff, helping professionals such as discharge planners and the public through NY Connects.
- County Collaboration - In each particiating county, NY Connects is operated through collaboration between the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and the Department of Social Services (DSS). Some counties have included additional partners such as the Department of Health, Veterans Administration, or Youth Bureau. Although the program is operated through multiple agency collaboration, counties are able to provide Information and Assistance that is promoted and recognized as a distinct service, independent of any particular partner agency. Programs also utilize standardized screening elements to aid in the consistent delivery of service. These qualities ensure a streamlined public entry point to the program - the cornerstone of NY Connects .
- Public Education - Public education and outreach are conducted to increase the visibility of the program and alleviate the mis-conception that long term services and supports can be delivered only in institutional settings. Raising awareness of NY Connects informs the general public and helping professionals that there is one easily accessible place to get information on long term services and supports options available in their community, assistance with linking to those services and supports and the benefits of preparing for future long term care needs.
- Long Term Care Councils - NY Connects is the first program of its kind to initiate state-wide long term care 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 (Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) Directors, Local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) Commissioners), and key stakeholders who come together to analyze the local long term care 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.
By establishing the NY Connects program, New York State has been recognized by AoA and CMS as having Aging and Disability Resource Centers, making New York eligbile for additional federal funding for targeted programs. NYSOFA has broadened the scope of NY Connects to further reform long term care and expand partnerships. This has been accomplished by developing and administering the following Administration on Aging (AoA)/Administration for Community Living (ACL) funded programs in targeted counties.
- Nursing Home Diversion and Transition Program (2008) and the Community Living Program (2009): Allows older adults to maintain their independence and remain in their communities by offering consumer directed models of care, which allow individuals to be more involved and have more control over the types of services they receive and how they receive them.
- Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services Program (2008) : Allows VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) to purchase consumer directed services and other home and community based services directly from the aging network for qualified veterans of all ages who are at risk of nursing home placement.
- Aging and Disability Resource Center Grant (2009): Improves access to long term services and supports through the provision of Options Counseling and improves transitions in care to decrease preventable re-hospitalizations and support individuals to remain successfully at home. A major component is the development of a volunteer Community Supports Navigator program in Albany and Tompkins Counties, which supports older adults transitioning from hospital to home by helping them follow their post discharge plan and access the services and supports that they need.
- ADRC Evidenced-Based Care Transitions Program (2010): Assists older adults with the transition from hospitals to home through evidenced based models, specifically, the Coleman model. The grant builds on the ADRC model which is an essential required component.
- Chronic Disease Self Management Program (2009): Serves at least 5,000 community living older adults with chronic disease, engage providers already delivering CDSMP in a statewide system, and build a regional infrastructure to offer and sustain high quality deliveries adhering to the fidelity of the CDSMP and other evidenced-based health programs. Among the deliverables is integration with NY Connects as a referral source.
- Lifespan Respite Care Program (2010): DDevelops a coordinated system of accessible, community-based respite services for family caregivers of children and adults with special needs.
- Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act for Beneficiary Outreach and Assistance (2010): Expand, extend and enhance outreach efforts to increase participation in the Medicare Savings Program and Low Income Subsidy Program, provide assistance with Medicare Part D and increase the use of preventive services for beneficiaries. Collaboration between the State Health Insurance Program (known as HIICAP in NYS), Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (NY Connects) are required.
- Accelerating Sustainable Service Systems (2011): New York was one of four states to receive 2011 funding geared towards further streamlining access to home and community based services. New York will work with counties to create an integrated, evidence-based, and sustainable service system which is dementia capable for older adults, individuals with disabilities and family caregivers. Under this system, NY Connects will serve as the hub of communication and referral/linkages to services.