In 2009 — on the 10-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. — President Obama proclaimed 2009 the “Year of Community Living.” The landmark Supreme Court ruling supported community living options for people with disabilities. Shortly after Obama’s proclamation, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced an initiative to make it easier for older people, younger adults, and their families to access health and long-term care options through Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) programs. ADRCs serve as a comprehensive source of information, one-on-one counseling, and streamlined access to programs and services that can enable people to continue living in their own homes and communities.
An HHS Coordinating Council, led by Henry Claypool, Director of the Office on Disability, is a working partnership among the Administration on Aging (AoA), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Office of Civil Rights, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This partnership is charged with coordinating the Year of Community Living efforts. Strengthening working relationships between these agencies can benefit those who rely on services from HHS in multiple ways.
For example, care coordination — the purposeful integration of primary and acute care services with long-term care needs — is a potential benefit of the interdepartmental collaboration. Improving timely access to these services would benefit many older adults and people with disabilities, particularly those with low incomes.
This initiative is expanding ADRCs across the country. ADRCs are a collaborative effort of AoA and CMS. Since 2003, the two agencies have jointly funded ADRC pilot programs in 45 states and territories. The new funding from HHS builds on and expands the existing pilots so all states can offer this program and its services to their citizens.
The Council has established five working groups on key issues to achieve its goals:
- Quality and data
ADRCs are designed to reduce the confusion and frustration consumers and their families often experience when trying to find needed information and services. The centers serve as visible and trusted sources of information and assistance on all available public and private options, so people can make informed decisions about their long-term support. ADRCs serve as convenient entry points for all public long-term care programs and support services.
States that receive ADRC grants must involve a variety of agencies, organizations and consumers representing seniors and people with physical, developmental and mental health disabilities in the design and implementation of their ADRC programs. ADRCs also partner with State Health Insurance Counseling Programs to help people with their Medicare benefits.
As part of the “Year of Community Living,” CMS issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit input about improving current regulations by removing federal barriers that discourage states from designing needs-based, person-centered home and community-based waiver programs. This notice also solicits comments on providing additional clarity around the characteristics of home and community-based settings. The ANPRM can be found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov.