To The Daily Sun,
ServiceLink, a cost effective, critical service to our community is at risk of losing its funding.
In the late 1990's the N.H. Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS), in partnership with local agencies, held community conversations across the state to better understand the challenges faced by older adults. At these sessions, the vast majority of seniors identified the complexities of navigating the health care and social service systems. They reported making telephone calls to one agency after another trying to find assistance, which often led to frustration and surrender. Many people said they were unable to get the help they needed. At that time, the N.H. Legislature was discussing their concerns about the aging of N.H. and the impact on the economy. Use of traditional, nursing home care was the service of choice in meeting long-term care needs and due to the high cost of care, was not sustainable. It was clear to them that the health care and social service system could not accommodate the growing needs of older adults. Reform was needed. State legislators and seniors agreed that services must focus on supporting older adults in the least restrictive and lowest cost care . . . that being in their home and in their community.
In 1998, Senate Bill 409 called for reforming the system of long term care. In 2000, ServiceLink was established to provide information, referral and assistance for older adults, adults with disabilities, and people living with chronic illness. The goal was to assist older adults and their families navigate the health care and social service system and link them to services and supports that would help them remain in their homes.
When ServiceLink was established in 2000, 15.1 percent of the population was 65 and older in Belknap County. It is projected that in 2030, the population (65 and older in Belknap County) will exceed 36 percent (Source: NH Office of Energy and Planning) . With this dramatic increase in population, traditional nursing home care at a cost of approximately $230/day, (mostly paid through the Medicaid program) is not sustainable.
Over the past 15 years, ServiceLink has helped thousands of older adults, adult with chronic illness and disability and their families navigate through the health care and social service systems. In fiscal year 2014, ServiceLink Resource Center of Belknap County answered over 5,800 calls for help. Assistance to callers range from meeting basic needs such as a ride to the doctors to complex needs such as dementia, caregiver support and services, housing, and isolation leading to deteriorating health. ServiceLink provides:
• Free, one-on-one assistance for cost-saving options/ resources to understand and access long-term care supports and services.
• Assistance and guidance in Long-Term Care Options Counseling, which helps families apply for needed services and supports to keep loved ones out of nursing facilities and remain in their homes.
• Medicare counseling which provides assistance in enrollment, understanding Medicare bills, reporting suspected Medicare fraud and accessing prescription plans at affordable costs (when a person turns 65 or is disabled).
• Family caregiver supports through one-on-one counseling, education and training. Small respite grants in the amount no larger than $2,000/year are provided to caregivers to extend their ability to continue to care for their loved one in their home.
• Assistance to individuals as they transition from the hospital to their home. These services reduce hospital re-admissions and the resulting costs of these re-admissions to the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
• Home visits to older adults and their families when they are unable to come to the office due to disability or caregiving responsibilities.
• Services and supports to veterans and their family members so that veterans can live as independently as possible in their own homes and reduce the need for hospitalization or nursing home care.
In order to prevent nursing home care and extend the time people can remain in their homes, it is essential that community- based services and supports continue to be available and that Servicelink continue to be a portal for individuals and their families in accessing them.
Our New Hampshire legislators are currently working on the budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 which begins July, 2015. The funding for ServiceLink is in jeopardy. Please contact your representatives and senators and let them know how important ServiceLink is to you, your family and to the state economy:
House of Representatives (http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx 271-3661)
Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health Board of Directors
Maggie Pritchard, Betty Anson, Dr. Richard Wilson, Kathy Berman, David Emberley, Liane Clairmont, John Beland Brian Hoffman, Denise Hubbard, Alida Millham, Andrew Moeller and Karin Salome
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