I had the opportunity to speak at Perspectives on Nutrition and Aging: A National Summit in Washington in August. This is the 40th anniversary of the inclusion of Senior Nutrition Programs in the Older Americans Act. Since 1972, 8 billion meals have been served to seniors. But this is more than about meals. With 60 million people over 60, the number of older adults facing hunger, obesity and chronic medical conditions will increase. This is a societal issue. And aging services providers play a part.
One organization I learned about was Benefits Data Trust, which has a history of utilizing private sector strategies to create solutions to public sector issues.
BDT model seeks to improve the efficiency of benefits enrollment for low-income people by using data-driven strategies and a person-centered approach to target and streamline the outreach and application assistance process. The model relies on these major program components.
The BDT model is based upon strong partnerships. BDT partners with government entities at the state, regional and local level to ensure that its process is tailored to the needs of the state and the administering agencies. Through clear and ongoing communication, BDT is able to develop strong relationships with front line staff at the administering agency in order to streamline the application submission process and effectively support the client.
By matching existing state and federal data of persons who are eligible for at least one public benefit, BDT is able to identify thousands of individuals who are very likely eligible for but not enrolled in multiple public benefits.
Once the most accurate lists are generated, BDT uses direct mail and outbound call strategies to conduct targeted outreach to communicate with potentially eligible individuals. BDT currently mails approximately 1.5 million letters annually and has developed expertise in tailoring messages and mail packages for the population in need.
In-Depth Application Assistance
Once contacted, BDT utilizes a call center approach to educate about benefits and assist likely eligible individuals. Many individuals assisted by BDT staff have difficulty traveling to the various agencies to apply for benefits and appreciate support over the phone. The BDT call center is staffed with caring and committed Benefits Outreach Specialists (BOS) who are highly trained to communicate complex benefit information in a patient and friendly manner.
Follow-up & Submission
The BDT model conducts proactive follow-up with individuals to be certain that applications submitted to the county assistance office are complete, accurate and include all of the necessary documentation. When so many individuals are not enrolled in benefit programs due to failure to provide the appropriate documentation, it is not enough to just help someone start an application.
With care coordination so important, BDT may be on to something. They partner with government agencies, community and advocacy organizations, private service providers, and private funders.
Perhaps in reaching out to help your community, you will also come upon some natural fits of people who need your service and then could possibly be led to funding sources for it.
Mary Jane Koren, Vice President at The Commonwealth funded noted how all of the issues with elders were inter-related. She said that "if elders are well nourished, they fall less often and they are not as depressed." So to the extent you can solve one social issue using some coordinated services like BDT, you actually end up solving many.
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