Call NY Connects First

Call NY Connects first! It is very frustrating for seniors and their caregivers to call one organization after another to find out what programs are available to help them with a certain situation. I often hear that they were so frustrated being shuffled from one place to another and that no one seems to have the right answer. Well, you don’t need to be frustrated anymore … just call NY Connects first! at 753-4582, 661-7582 or 363-4582.

NY Connects is a local helpline with specially trained staff to help link seniors, caregivers and younger people with disabilities to programs and services that are available in our county. The specially trained operators keep a central database of all local resources and their eligibilities requirements, any kind of service people may need to help you stay healthy and independent. These could be health services like homecare and home-delivered meals or non-medical services like utility assistance, bill paying or home renovations. NY Connects staff has applications and information they can send right to your home or they link you to someone who can sit down with you and guide you through the options. NY Connects sits in the Office for Aging but is overseen by government, community service organizations and consumers just like you. Over the past few years NY Connects has expanded its role and continually tries to streamline access to services so clients can get what they need as quickly as possible.

NY Connects is a statewide program but each county has its own local helpline with real people answering the phone. Locally we have made the helpline our central intake for OFA and Medicaid-funded homecare services including personal care, chore service, personal emergency response and more. NY Connects is also the central intake for all Meals on Wheels programs in the county. This means you call one number for these services and we get things started without you having to call anywhere else. Meals can get started as soon as one to two days. Recently our OFA homecare program received a significant increase in funds authorized by our local legislature. The legislature recognized the importance of helping seniors stay independent at home and OFA is moving quickly to offer services to many who were waiting for assistance. OFA homecare is a gap program to help people 60 and over who demonstrate need and cannot get this help through another source. Many OFA services are offered on donation or sliding-scale basis depending on income to make it affordable for people who don’t qualify for services under their insurance or Medicaid.

I want you to understand that NY connects is not just the door to government-funded programs. NY Connects links people to community exercise and wellness programs, transportation services, support groups, employment, volunteer opportunities and a wide range of services that keep people engaged as well as assist them to maintain their independence and “age in place.” NY Connects also serves people with disabilities of all ages including parents with disabled children, disabled adults and veterans.

This year we worked very closely with the Veterans Service Agency and Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to provide home renovations and handicap adaptations for dozens of veterans and their families through the generosity of a private donor.

People often ask me, “Doesn’t 211 do the same thing?” Well, 211 does help people find what they are looking for but our specially trained operators screen people who call for many different things and are usually able to give them ideas for assistance that they may not have thought of on their own. For example, many people call us about difficulty paying their heating bills so of course we tell them about HEAP qualifications and extra utility assistance through their utility provider or Empower NY. In addition, NY Connects operators will also discuss other aspects of their finances to see if the client could save money through the insurance counseling program or the Medicare Savings Program (MSP).

People who qualify for MSP can have all or part of their Medicare premiums paid putting an extra $100 in their pocket each month. This can go a long way to helping to pay their bills. Another story we often hear is someone calling to start meals services for their elderly parent but during the interview the operator discovers that the family caregiver is really stressed trying to work, raise a family, and juggle helping her mom with meals, heavy housework, laundry, and a bath several times a week. Depending on Mom’s medical situation and finances, we can link them to insurance-covered homecare, Medicaid or OFA-funded services, or private pay services.

We also could link the caregiver with respite programs (like adult day services) and support groups. Caregivers are at great risk for burnout which can lead to serious health problems. If the caregiver gets sick, where does that leave the aging parent? Supporting caregivers by providing services to the elderly parent means Mom stays in her home longer and the daughter can manage to assist Mom for many more years.

NY Connects is a resource for seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers, health professionals, hospitals, social workers and out-of-town friends and family. NY Connects is the first place you should call if you’re looking for services to help seniors or anyone with a disability. NY Connects operators are available to speak with you Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or you can email them at Messages left after hours are usually returned the next day. So, remember to call NY Connects first at 753-4582, 363-4582 or 661-7582. We are here to help you!