Vantage Point – Caring About Health Care

April 12th, 2013

dennis_fitzgibbons_pictureIt’s hard to listen to the news or to read the newspaper without being bombarded with information about the Affordable Care Act – more often referred to as Obamacare. A recent NPR news piece asked people on the street what they knew about the law and its impact on health care. Amazingly, few people were able to explain what the new law will do. As I reflected on the NPR piece, I recalled how health care brought me to Alpha One in 1995 for the purpose of leading Alpha One’s venture to provide managed care for people with disabilities.  

In the early 90s I had been the Project Director of a grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at the Center for Living & Working (CLW) in Worcester, MA.  It was during this period I became a health and wellness zealot for people with disabilities. Alpha One and CLW were two of 11 CILs in the national program, Improving Service Systems for People with Disabilities. The CLW project focus was to create an Independent Living Case Management model for managed care organizations. After a few false starts by Maine DHS, managed care fell off the public policy agenda and Alpha One pursued other ventures. Nevertheless, health, wellness and prevention of secondary disabilities are always on my mind as an area where I believe Alpha One has much to offer.

As the Affordable Care Act is rolled out, what will this mean for people with disabilities who experience numerous inconsistencies in the health care system? The Institute on Disability at UNH report, Health Disparities Chart Book on Disability and Racial and Ethnic Status in the United States offers a sad glimpse into the health of people with disabilities. The report agrees with commonly held population data that puts the number of people with a disability at 20% of the population. Although disability is not a formally recognized minority group, the report treats it as such to draw comparisons to other minority groups and their experience in health care. These groups are: Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islanders.

According to the report socio-economic status, is the most common determinant of disease. The disturbing result – people with disabilities have the worst prevalence rates in 10 of 14 categories including the lowest proportion of employment for wages (43%); self reporting their health as fair or poor at 40%;  the highest level of being sedentary (37%), the highest prevalence of obesity (38%) the highest prevalence of diabetes (15%) and the highest prevalence of stroke, coronary heart disease and heart attack (5%, 7% and 7%) and people with disabilities were the largest group reporting cost as a barrier to health care (28%).    

Of course, in other minority groups the news is even worse if one has a disability. Blacks without a disability report their health as fair or poor (11%); Blacks with a disability report their health as fair or poor (50%).

The time has arrived for Alpha One to re-engage in the health care sector as an advocate for access to care; to educate the community about these issues and most importantly to provide people with disabilities with information and tools to apply the principles of consumer direction and empowerment in their own health care.

2013 Maine Disability Survey

April 12th, 2013

ME_SILC_revised_2013Alpha One and Maine SILC are putting together The 2013 Maine Disability Survey and we need your participation.

 

There are approximately 200,000 people with disabilities living in Maine and we would like to reach them all. Help us spread the word. Fill in the survey and then share this with as many people as you can through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text, Youtube, etc. to help us reach our goal. 

 

This could be the beginning of significant change in Maine, and you could be a part of it.

 

We want to create an accurate map of the aspirations & unmet needs of people living with disabilities in our state. It has been years since any similar statewide survey was done.

 

We will compile the information we receive to create a State Plan for Independent Living which includes independent living goals and objectives, outreach plans, and funding priorities. We will share this information with legislators, other disability agencies, town planners, and anyone else who cares to listen and has a willingness to make change when needed. 

  

How can you help? If you are a person with a disability – participate! Visit MaineSILC.org to fill out the survey and give us a snapshot of your life, your needs, and how things could be improved. If you don’t have a disability, you probably know someone that does – we all do – a friend, parent, sibling, co-worker. Share this survey and give them a chance to be counted!

 

Participate. Share. Be Counted.

Staff Spotlight – Chris

April 12th, 2013

Chris_Delenick_colorWhat have you been doing prior to coming to Alpha One ?

I’ve worked as an Occupational Therapist in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Maine and in settings that have included acute rehabilitation hospitals, acute care hospitals, outpatient centers, skilled nursing facilities, and even a State prison. Don’t worry, the prison let me out every day for good behavior.

What unique perspective or skills do you bring to the team?

Well, I’m a terrific dancer and can also do some pretty good balloon animals…I really try to bring a sense of humor and fun to work. Working in the health care field there are definitely times where you need it! My experience on the acute care and rehabilitation side of things lends me the ability to “see behind the curtain” so to speak, and have an awareness of the process a lot of our consumer’s may face when they encounter hospital or rehab stays.

How has your initial experience at AO been so far?  

Wonderful. I find the organization to be amazingly supportive, personally and professionally. The common theme has been “give it a year,” as in, it will take me a full year as a new employee to become fully versed in all the services Alpha One offers. Everyone here has been eager to help ease the growing pains of learning a new position and been able to point me in the right direction when I have questions (as a newer employee I have LOTS and LOTS of them).

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Being able to make it through a full week without asking Betsy Grass, my supervisor, at least 20 questions. I would love to see Alpha One serve consumers who have an high level, acquired cognitive disability, whether through trauma or medical condition. It’s an area of practice that is near and dear to my heart and is woefully underserved throughout our state.

Anything memorable happened out on the road?

Arriving at the wrong address for a consumer visit and having the person who answered the door (at the wrong address) offer me coffee and a muffin. I politely declined.

What is your personal philosophy in life? 

“Do unto others…”

 Favorite book/album/movie?  

Book; Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara.  Album; Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Movie; The Big Lebowski, The Royal Tannenbaums.

Staff Spotlight – Carly

February 28th, 2013

carlyWhat were you doing prior to coming to Alpha One?

I moved to Maine about a year ago and worked temporarily at a Healthcare Clinic in Portland before coming to Alpha One.   In Massachusetts, I worked at an Area Agency on Aging as part of a program which gave me the opportunity to work closely with staff from a Center for Independent Living.

What unique perspective, or skills do you bring to the team?

I like to try new things and am typically not very apprehensive when it comes to new experiences.  I have a background in Health Education and also went to culinary school so I’d love to find a way to share some of that knowledge.

How has your initial experience at AO been so far?

Great!  I’ve learned a lot during my time here and really enjoy the time I’m able to spend out in the community meeting new people.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Being a part of Homeward Bound, a new program that Alpha One is part of.  The program’s goal is to assist elderly and disabled adults in moving from institutional to community settings.  I’m also looking forward to my wedding.  I’m getting married in August and can’t wait!

Anything memorable happened out on the road?

Not yet.  I’ve never seen a moose in person before so I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of one in my travels.

What is your personal philosophy in life?

You have to do what’s right for you.

SILC/Alpha One Communications

February 28th, 2013

We are pleased to announce that the team at Alpha One Communications www.alphaonecommunications.org, our in-house design company, has begun working on an ongoing marketing project for Maine SILC.

The project, which will bring in $7000 of revenue for AO this year, is also scheduled to include annual support for the SILC website and social media components that will bring in additional revenue over successive years.

The first part of the project focuses on an online questionnaire that will be used in part as input to create SILC’S three-year State Plan for Independent Living required by the Federal Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration.   We are hoping to use the information we collect to create an accurate map of disability across the state to help us communicate current and future needs to legislators and beyond.

To see how you can assist, stay tuned for further news.

A perfect partnership

February 28th, 2013

Thanks to assistance from Prudential, Alpha One is proud to present the upcoming Return to Life Concert at Merrill Auditorium  next Sunday, March 10th 2013,  featuring Jewel. All profits from the concert will go to benefit Alpha One so please help us spread the word.

“Now, five concerts in, we are excited to have featured artists as diverse as Indigo Girls, Rufus Wainwright, Brandi Carlisle, and  David Bromberg in this successful series,” says Lori Tully, Manager of Return to Life Programs. “Jewel is a wonderful addition to this series, as an acclaimed American singer, songwriter, actress, poet, painter, and philanthropist. We are excited to be able to celebrate our continued partnership in such a fun way.”

The three-time Grammy nominee, hailed by the New York Times as a “songwriter bursting with talents,” has enjoyed career longevity rare among her generation of artists. With over 27 million albums sold, her many accolades include Grammy Award nominations, an American Music Award, and an MTV Video Music Award.

For the past five years Alpha One and Prudential have developed a partnership, offering innovative solutions to assist people in reclaiming their lives after a significant injury or illness.  Alpha One is Maine’s leading center for independent living, providing the community with access to information, services, and products that create opportunities for people with disabilities. The Return to Life program (RTL) from Prudential adds a human touch to claims management and increases the employee’s chances of resuming a full life and returning to work. “RTL is a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” recognizes Dennis Fitzgibbons, Alpha One Executive Director.

Tickets for the Jewel Greatest Hits Tour are available now at www.porttix.com or at the Merrill Auditorium Box Office. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; concert starts at 7:30 p.m. For information about accessible tickets, click here.

Legislative Update – with Matt Peterson

February 28th, 2013

The 126th Maine Legislature is in full swing. Elections are long over, leadership has been elected, committee assignments have been made, and Governor LePage has put forward budget proposals that are being busily vetted by House and Senate members.

Right now the Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee is considering Governor LePage’s supplemental budget, which makes changes to this fiscal year, ending on June 30th.  A supplemental budget is a bill that is intended to bring the state into balance within a biennium, as required by the Constitution.

The supplemental budget that is being considered is a $153 million budget document that addresses a $100 million Department of Health and Human Services shortfall and $35 million in revenue re-projection and additional funding requests.  The AFA Committee is about to complete its work sessions on the supplemental budget with a floor vote expected by the end of the week.

After the supplemental budget has been voted on, the Legislature will begin work on the Governor’s proposed 6.3 billion biennial budget.

Telling Our Story

February 28th, 2013

At our all staff event during Spring 2012, we discussed ways to help us stay connected with our consumers and with the community in general. Raising Alpha One’s profile helps us in numerous ways, such as when service providers like us are targeted for state cuts, we won’t have to educate legislators as to what we do. Several great ideas came up for this. One was to let our consumers tell their story, and in turn have them tell ours.

It has long been our plan to use video, most recently to explain the benefits of the Homeward Bound program. We show consumers in the nursing home, before they begin this program, and then after, once they have returned to the community. What better way to illustrate the benefits of this program than by seeing it in action, using the voice of the people it impacts the most.

The first few interviews have been filmed and are currently being edited down. Once completed, they will be uploaded to our YouTube channel to act as an ongoing resource to both consumers and staff. All our videos are fully captioned. YouTube also now offers a “Translate” option. While not perfect, this definitely will help us to reach out to our non-English speaking consumers, of which we have a growing number.

Our hope is to film a couple consumer videos per month, ultimately looking to create a cross section of disability, economic, and cultural stories. If you have consumers that you think would be good candidates, please  let us know.

Feb Vantage Point – Giving Back

February 28th, 2013

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” – Sir Winston Churchill

In a conversation with a co-worker the other day, the topic of discussion shifted to life outside of Alpha One (yes, strangely enough – I do have one). We discovered that we both are active volunteers in our local churches and share a desire to give back. In my time, I have cooked many a pot of soup, redirected cars to parking spaces, balanced finances, and more, all in the hopes of bettering both my community, and in turn – myself.

The reward we get back from assisting others, both at work and in our home life, far outweighs the time and effort we put into it. Last June, I spent a week traveling in the Southwest on a pilgrimage with a group of teens as one of their leaders and guides. The opportunity to see the world again through their young eyes and experience places I would otherwise never see was worth so much more than the time and energy I expended doing it.

There are many other opportunities out there, both for us and the consumers we serve. Being a member of a board, collecting for local shelters, or serving on a town committee, are just a few examples of civic engagement we could all follow. The truth of the matter is, our community needs us, and we in return need our community. To represent our community accurately, a healthy percentage of those Americans involved should include People with Disabilities.

On a nationwide level, the report “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” shows the volunteer rate reaching its highest level since 2006. More than 64 million Americans – or roughly one in four adults – volunteered approximately 8 billion hours, valued at $171 billion. In addition, two out of three citizens nationally (65 percent or almost 144 million citizens) engaged in informal volunteering by doing favors for and helping out their neighbors, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points from last year. Our rate of volunteering earned Maine a rank of 12th among all states.

Where can we start? April 25, 2013, is annual Pay it Forward day. There is tremendous power and positive energy in giving; it is a shame that not enough people have experienced it to the fullest. Pay It Forward Day is about all people, from all walks of life, giving to someone else and making a positive difference. At last count there were more than 500,000 people in 38 countries around the world participating on this day.

You might ask, how does this relate to our work at Alpha One? Here’s how. As we focus more of our effort on empowering people with disabilities, one of the best ways to become empowered is to get involved in some manner. By getting involved as a volunteer, a consumer will by his/her participation change attitudes and perceptions regarding disability. Being on the giving end also changes our self-perception for the better.

We can mobilize consumers and ourselves in service to address local needs and problems. We can’t look to others; we need to be the change agents. During our conversations in the homes of consumers we have the opportunity to lead by example. By showing that we at Alpha One are active and involved, we will be able to share our experiences and give examples about how our lives are richer for it.

If you volunteer, I’d like to know about it. And, what is your interest in participating in Pay it Forward Day on April 25th? If there is interest, we will look for ways to combine consumer/staff volunteering through each of our offices that day.

DIY Wheelchair Snow Tires

January 15th, 2013
wheelchair tires with zip ties

wheelchair tires with zip ties

Here’s something that may help wheelchair users deal with the slippery winter issue of poor traction. Originally meant for use on bicycles, but it should work just as well on wheelchairs.

Snowy winter days are easy on the eyes and something many of us look forward to seeing, at least “once” each winter season. For wheelchair users these winter wonderland days can present some real issues with getting around and getting the not so wonderland things done. Read the rest of this entry »