The following is the third in a series of blogs on Transportation Information & Assistance and is part of a series of NADTC activities on the same topic, including two planned webinars and an information brief. Read the first post in the series here and the second post here.
Our first blog post on this topic last month provided an overview of transportation Information and Referral/Assistance (I&R/A). Now let’s take a step back to learn a bit more about the types of agencies that may be delivering transportation I&R/A at the local level.
I&R/A in Your Community
At its core, I&R/A is designed to build trust and relationships with the community. The experience of navigating available social services can be a difficult and overwhelming experience, especially when immediate help is needed. An I&R/A professional is often the best person to help untangle the web of information and make the process of finding and applying for services significantly easier. I&R/A staff use refined problem–solving skills to hone in on individual needs, provide information and options, and empower people to make their own decisions. By using active listening skills, they assess the situation and together with the caller, identify primary service needs. Sometimes the assessment may reveal additional critical service needs beyond the original issue identified by the caller.
I&R/A Professionals use active listening skills to assess a situation. Active listening is an important communication skill where one is mindfully hearing and paying attention to the meaning of words spoken by another. Active listening helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy.
The more in-depth communication provided by I&R/A Programs is sometimes referred to as “options counseling”. Options counseling is defined as an interactive decision-support process whereby consumers and family members are supported in their deliberations to determine appropriate long-term support choices in the context of the consumer’s needs, preferences, values, and individual circumstances.
The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS – www.airs.org), which represents the field of I/R&A, defines information and referral/assistance as “the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together” (For more information on standards of practice in Information and Referral Programs, see www.airs.org). While provider information may be available in printed directories or on program websites, one-on-one assistance on the telephone is still needed and often preferred by many individuals when seeking assistance. Discussing their situation with a trained professional offers older adults and people with disabilities support to better understand the array of options available and help them choose the best options to address their specific needs.
I&R/A Builds Trust By:
- Engaging with the caller and recognizing wants and needs.
- Knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the entire scope of the local system.
- Partnerships and referrals to community organizations.
- Often enhanced technology (sophisticated databases and computer software) to help sort through services and programs and track impactful communication.
A Network of Trusted I&R/A
I&R/A programs generally provide information on a wide array of issues, including health care, social services and support programs, employment and transportation. I&R/A provided locally by the agencies briefly described below offer a wide range of information but may be distinguished by the particular target populations they serve. State Units on Aging (SUAs) and Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) serve older adults and family caregivers primarily, although their I&R/A programs often handle requests from people with disabilities. Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) serve both older adults and people with disabilities, as well as family caregivers, while Centers for Independent Living (CILs) target their services to people with disabilities of all ages. 2-1-1 Call Centers typically respond to calls from anyone.
Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) are public or private non-profit agencies designated by the state to coordinate and offer services in a specific geographic area. The mission of AAAs is to help older adults remain independent, healthy and in their homes as long as they choose. To find the AAA in your community, contact the Eldercare Locator at 1.800.677.1116, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET or visit www.eldercare.gov. To learn more about AAAs, visit www.n4a.org.
Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) assist individuals of any age with identifying and accessing a range of public or private home and community-based resources that maintain individual independence. ADRCs are also a resource for professionals seeking assistance on behalf of their clients and individuals planning for their future long-term care needs. To learn more about ADRCs, visit www.adrc-tae.acl.gov
Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are consumer‑controlled, community‑based, cross‑disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agencies that provide an array of independent living services, peer support, information and referral, and transition assistance for youth and older adults. To find the Center for Independent Living in your community, visit http://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory.
State Units on Aging (SUAs) are the designated agencies at the state level responsible for developing and administering a multi-year state plan that advocates for and provides assistance to older residents, their families and, in many states, for adults with physical disabilities. To learn more about SUAs, visit http://www.nasuad.org/.
Title VI Native American Aging Programs provide nutrition, supportive and caregiver services to older American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. To find the Title VI Program in your community, contact Eldercare Locator at 1.800.677.1116, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET or visit www.eldercare.gov. To learn more about Title VI programs, visit www.n4a.org.
2-1-1s provide callers with information and referral to human services for everyday needs and in times of crisis. Dial 2-1-1 or visit https://www.disability.gov/2-1-1-help-in-your-area/ for a listing of 2-1-1 websites by state.
How Communities Connect Consumers to Transportation I&R/A
One call-one click resource centers were created to provide information specifically about transportation; however, not all communities have access to these resources. Mobility Managers who may be employed by transit agencies or work in human services agencies provide one-on-one assistance to individuals seeking transportation, help them identify the ride options best suited to meet their needs and may even make referrals to transportation providers or arrange rides (as defined in the first blog). Staff with the title of Transportation Resource Specialist or Travel Coordinator generally perform similar functions. Where such programs are not available, however, many older adults and people with disabilities still rely on an I&R/A program with a broad mission to obtain information about the transportation options available in the community. It is vitally important that community transportation providers and I&R/A programs work together to ensure that consumers who rely on these trusted resources are able to get the information they need.
To stay connected to their communities and continue living independently, older adults and people with disabilities need access to:
- Information on available, relevant transportation services;
- Guidance on how to navigate and use public transportation and whenever possible, access to a travel training program;
- Information and assistance to access publicly funded and private pay transportation options, including such specialized transportation services as volunteer transportation, assisted rides, transportation network companies or taxi services;
- Assistance with developing an individual transportation plan.
MY RIDE, Dallas, TX
MY RIDE Dallas is a program of the Community Council of Greater Dallas, which operates the designated Area Agency on Aging, and connects consumers to transportation options in Dallas County. MY RIDE was created because the AAA recognized that many older adults and people with disabilities find it hard to travel to work, to doctor’s appointments or to visit friends. MY RIDE offers a coordinated system and one phone number for all transportation options in the county.
MY RIDE Dallas closely coordinated with local information and referral sources and developed a protocol to connect individuals who call 2-1-1, the Dallas Area Agency on Aging, and other community agencies to a central MY RIDE navigator. MY RIDE was added to the I&R/A database as a referral option for senior transportation inquiries for every zip code in Dallas County. To ensure proper referral to the MY RIDE program, a referral protocol was put in place for complex calls. In addition, 2-1-1 and MY RIDE share data on calls and referrals, and use the data to update the 2-1-1 resource database and refine the transportation training for 2-1-1 staff members.
Once a referral from 2-1-1 is made to a MY RIDE navigator, the individual is guided through an options counseling process that considers the unique needs and preferences of the individual and results in a personalized transportation plan. For more information on MY RIDE, visit www.myridedallas.org. To speak with a MY RIDE Navigator, call (972) 855-8084 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIFE Center for Independent Living (LIFE CIL), Bloomington, IL
LIFE Center for Independent Living (LIFE CIL) is a designated Center for Independent Living (CIL) with a mission to promote equal opportunities and access by breaking down barriers and prejudices within communities. Like every CIL across the country, LIFE CIL provides five core services: advocacy, peer support, independent living skills, transition, and information and referral. Through their I&R program, LIFE CIL offers guidance on locating and tips on how to access available services and products. Because of its robust I&R system and internal referrals in place for transportation calls, LIFE CIL has become a leader in the community transportation efforts.
In 2016, LIFE CIL entered into a partnership with the public transit agency to certify the eligibility of paratransit riders. This partnership is a result of LIFE CIL’s in depth knowledge of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I&R services, and its trusted relationship with the community. Thanks to this partnership, individuals who call about paratransit services are referred directly to the on-staff transportation specialist, whereas under the previous system, consumers had to go through the public transit agency to obtain certification.
Applicants for paratransit are provided with information on how to apply and, once the paper application and professional verifications are received, report to LIFE CIL for an in-person interview. If the individual qualifies for services, the transportation specialist on staff at LIFE CIL writes an eligibility recommendation and provides it to the public transit agency. The transportation specialist also provides the new rider with specific information on using the services. If the individual is deemed ineligible for services, the transportation specialist is available to provide the support necessary to ensure alternative transportation will be available for the individual, including travel training of the fixed-route bus system, counseling on additional transportation options, assistance with future applications, and general information sharing. For more information on LIFE CIL, visit http://www.lifecil.org/. To contact the on-staff transportation specialist, call 309- 663-5433.