Page 17 - Scene Magazine 45-06 June 2020
P. 17

   Local Interest
Chief Program Officer, CareWell Services SW
     2020, my role as Chief Program Officer and that of the remainder of CareWell’s staff is anything but usual, but we are still excited to be here. Let me tell you why.
As food insecurity became more
of a concern, CareWell Services was contacted by Damon Brown, Director of RISE, a community project supporting distribution of food and hygiene pack- ages to anyone in need. Through this contact, a partnership and a friendship developed. Brown shared, “We just want to help, and Karla and her team have an energy that matches ours in this regard. When more than 80% of those coming through the Friday food distri- bution are seniors, CareWell Services was a natural partner.”
As the area agency on aging (AAA) serving Barry and Calhoun counties, our mission is to promote health, indepen- dence, and choice for seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers. We do so through programs like care manage- ment; caregiver and dementia support programs; and our senior information call center, among others. The programs we deliver are based on identified needs in our community.
In addition to RISE, another new collaborative has supported this important work. The Calhoun County Faith-Based Coalition (CCFBC) is an interfaith collaborative that fosters ac- tions that connect people and resources to respond to critical needs in Calhoun County. Along with our CEO, Rev.
That brings me back to our current SITREP (emergency management lingo for situation report). CEO Karla Fales commented to our team that we would be, “Building the ship while sailing it,” as we took on the role of Liaison for
the Vulnerable Populations Workshop of the Community Operation Team – the working emergency management group charged with Calhoun County’s coordinated COVID-19 response plan. We developed a Rapid Response Team tasked with triaging requests and deter- mining needs as we set out to respond to challenges facing our seniors, caregiv- ers, and other vulnerable populations.
Dr. William Bell, Battle Creek Police Department Chaplin and group orga- nizer, Pastor Alan Bignell, and other representatives from local faith-based organizations and churches worked together to coordinate distribution of 600 food boxes at several locations throughout the community.
What did that look like within our agency? Much like it has for other essential businesses and health care agencies; we transitioned our entire workforce to their homes, with only a few exceptions. We reassigned roles and responsibilities and expanded duties for some staff. At the beginning, the phones were slow and then they took off as people began to have needs especially related to food, medicine, and other household needs. At one point our staff members were taking up to 100 calls a day, in the evening and on weekends.
While we are still a ways off from an environment of “business as usual,” CareWell is beginning to move forward in a different way of doing business – not a reflection of how we once operat- ed, but rather a result of what we have become, together.
Prior to March 2020, when people would ask, “How’s it going?” my usual reply was either, “I’m excited to
be here!” or, “Just business as usual.” After March 13,
for seniors. The agency also has worked with the Logistics team of the JOC to distribute more than 20,000 individual pieces of personal protection equipment for home health providers who work in homes with seniors.
Business as Usual... Well, not Exactly
We launched the HouseCalls Tele- phone Reassurance Program in mid- March with 15 staff and/or volunteers making connections with over 2,500 seniors in Calhoun and Barry counties in a little over three weeks. But we recognized that in order to be most effective in meeting the needs of our community, we needed to work togeth- er with other organizations. The Health Affairs Blog noted in their April 2020 edition, “In every community, many separate organizations provide services for older adults; their collective effec- tiveness depends on their individual capacities – and how well they coordi- nate their work.”
We saw the reality of this as we developed a response to basic needs and food assistance for at-risk seniors and isolated families. For example, CEO Karla Fales made the need for assistance with grocery shopping known within
the Joint Operations Committee (JOC) and several groups answered the call, namely the African American Coalition, Adventist Community Services, and the Burma Center. Collectively, these com- munity volunteers have provided more than $25,000 worth of needed food and supplies for seniors in Calhoun County, supported by a grant from the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region. An additional donation from Integrated Health Partners provided incontinence supplies and hygiene products for homebound seniors. The Consumers Energy Foundation provided a grant for BeWell Clean House Kits
I know one thing for sure, I could not be prouder of CareWell’s amazing staff, our remarkable volunteers, and dedicated partners over the course of this unprecedented time. I look forward to returning to some form of “business as usual” armed with the lessons we’ve learned and the new partnerships we’ve built. Oh, and I can’t wait to say once again, in person, “I’m excited to be here!”

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