Laura Newland, executive director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

We are hot! And I’m not talking about the hot July temperatures. At the DC Office on Aging (DCOA), we are celebrating this month after winning two prestigious awards — the Cafritz Foundation Team Award for Innovation and the n4A Aging Innovations Award for Home and Community-Based Services.

I am so proud of my team for working hard each and every day to ensure that our programs and services for District residents are working! And it feels great to be acknowledged.

In June, DCOA and the Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) received the 16th Annual Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Team Award for Innovation. The award is designed to honor the achievements of teams in one or multiple DC Government agencies who implement ongoing customer-focused initiatives that drive innovation and produce measurable and sustainable results.

DCOA and DHCF were recognized for creating a new enrollment process for the Elderly and persons with Physical Disabilities Waiver (EPD Waiver) Program. The EPD Waiver allows people who would otherwise receive care in a nursing home to receive care in their own homes and remain in their communities.

In 2014, we began working together, brainstorming ideas on how to reduce wait times, increase transparency, and improve customer service for vulnerable District residents in need of long-term services and supports. We created the Medicaid Enrollment Specialists team to conduct home visits and assist applicants throughout the enrollment process. Due to this successful interagency collaboration, significant improvements were made to the Medicaid enrollment customer experience.

Later this month, DCOA and its Safe at Home Program will be honored at the n4a Annual Conference in Savannah, Georgia, with the 2017 n4a Aging Innovations Award in Home & Community-Based Services. The n4a award recognizes the most innovative initiatives in the field of aging. We know how great the Safe at Home program has been in enabling District residents to continue living in their own homes and communities as they age. Now, Safe at Home is a nationally recognized program and a model for aging in place.

DCOA partnered with the Department on Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in January 2016 to create the Safe at Home Program, a program that provides home accessibility adaptions to reduce the risk of falls and reduce mobility barriers in the home.  We started the program with a projection to serve up to 100 clients. In its first year alone, we completed projects for nearly 200 residents, and this year, we’re projecting to serve an additional 450!

In June 2017, the program expanded to provide increased safety both in and around the home through the Private Security Camera Program, which enables eligible Safe at Home clients to receive private security camera systems at no cost.

It’s a huge honor to be recognized for these initiatives because they are both examples of how District agencies work together towards the common goal of serving our residents, whether it’s making important programs like the EPD Waiver more accessible, or developing innovative solutions to promote aging in place.

But it’s not about the awards and accolades — it’s about you!

Since Mayor Muriel Bowser took office, she has made it clear that “District government is the people’s government.” That means our agencies need to work for our citizens. We’re accountable to you, and we are responsible for ensuring all Washingtonians are on the path to inclusive prosperity.

When my team and I think about our programs, we keep these values at the core of all of our decisions — how can we work better, smarter, and more effectively to respond to your needs?

Thanks to Mayor Bowser’s commitment to making D.C. the best city in the world to age, we’re working together every day to ensure all residents have access to supports and services. As I like to say, growing older doesn’t mean getting old. Aging is living. And we want to help you thrive! Those are our D.C. Values.

For more information on the EPD Waiver Program or Safe at Home, contact DCOA at 202-724-5626.

Be well!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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