ANNAPOLIS – Ulysses Green, 74, had to travel from his home in Columbia to Ellicott City to find information he needed from the Howard County Department of Social Services.
Having arthritis in his back and knees made the trip, “a whole lot rough,” Green said.
Now, Green, along with other seniors, the disabled and their caregivers, will be able to access information about services and care closer to home, through a beefed up Web site available on the Internet.
Howard County is the first of two pilot sites in Maryland designed to make information on long-term care for the elderly and disabled more accessible.
The project was financed by an $800,000 federal grant received by the Maryland Department of Aging last October to establish Aging and Disability Resource Centers, known as Maryland Access Point, or MAP.
Howard County will showcase its MAP pilot Oct. 15 in conjunction with its annual senior expo.
The second pilot site, Worcester County, is still in the planning phase, but officials expect it to launch late next year.
“What Maryland Access Point is attempting to do is to create a very visible place in these two pilot counties to groom and educate the public,” said Ilene Rosenthal, chief of housing services for the Maryland Department of Aging.
“Anytime they have a question related to long-term care — whether it’s an older person, or a person with a disability or their caregiver — these are the places they can go to get all the information they need.”
Officials and advocates are working to expand the traditional definition of long-term care to encompass a larger range of services, such as adult day care, Meals on Wheels or even assistance with daily chores.
Although the Maryland Department of Aging is the lead agency for MAP, it has joined with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Maryland Department of Human Resources and the Maryland Department of Disabilities to help create a single point of entry for people needing information.
“We’re working very closely with our sister agencies, and they’re actively helping us shape this,” Rosenthal said. “We want to make it less cumbersome for consumers.”
In Howard County, officials in the Office on Aging are working to enhance services already available.
County officials collaborated with the Horizon Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization, to launch an expanded Web site that offered more service information about the county, including tip sheets that can be printed out from a searchable database.
“The thing about MAP is we’re building on things we already have in the community. . . all to make it easier for people,” said Phyllis Madachy, administrator for the Howard County Office on Aging.
Howard and Worcester counties will each get about $242,000 over the three years of the grant.
Advocates for the elderly are also supportive of MAP.
“This is important because it empowers individuals to make informed choices about their care or their loved one’s care,” said Deidre Rye, AARP Maryland associate state director.
“When an individual is faced with a long-term care decision, the system is so fragmented right now that caregivers and actual clients don’t know where to go. This is essential to streamline services to people who need it.”
Both local and state officials are hoping to continue MAP even after the federal grant money ends.
If successful, Howard and Worcester counties will serve as models for other counties to adopt.
“We’re just the guinea pigs,” said Madachy.