Social services providers are scrambling to adapt to new care realities in a field that has long relied on high-touch and high face-to-face time with at-risk populations. It’s not easy, but help has emerged. New York City – a main epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, in partnership with the nonprofit United States of Care, has published Playbook – City-Level COVID-19 Rapid Response to Serve At-Risk Populations
The authors note the resource guide is: “If you’re in a city with a patchwork of legacy health care and social services solutions…you will need a creative, impactful way to protect and serve your most vulnerable.” The white paper outlines strategies from the New York COVID-19 Rapid Response Coalition (CCRC) and how it used a proprietary data platform to integrate communications and directed client support to manage health and social determinants of health (SDoH) stressors for their at-risk population.
Incorporating a Data-Driven Social Services Platform
The CCRC relied on input from a wide range of service providers, from social service professionals to clinical professionals familiar with at-risk populations, and data and analytics professionals, as well as project management experts. The proprietary CCRC platform operates under four tactics, not unlike Eccovia’s ClientTrack:
- Identification of the Most Vulnerable: Using risk stratification, identify those at highest risk of mortality from COVID-19: those who have pre-existing chronic conditions and whose clinical state will decline rapidly due to constraints on the health care system.
- Needs Assessment and Patient Engagement: Engage the patients using scalable technology. Assess their needs and educate them on the situation and protective and preventive measures.
3: Connect Patients with Services: Based on their digital engagement, connect patients with the various clinical and social services they require. Refer to existing providers and solutions, address cross-system needs, and coordinate solutions.
- Monitor Effectiveness and Productivity: Leverage closed-loop communications to verify that the clinical and social services support is delivered and fulfilled and that the patients feel supported and safe in their homes and do not require additional hospital-based interaction.
Tracking COVID-19 Medicaid Policy Changes and Issues
The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) has published a site to help state social workers and other providers in their mission to care for at-risk populations during ongoing the COVID-19 crisis. CHCS is a nonprofit that launched in 1995, dedicated to improving the health of low-income Americans. The organization aims to bring together state agencies with an array of financial and technical sources, including health care, to “promote innovations in publicly financed health care, especially for individuals (including children) with complex, high-cost needs.”
At the top of its list is helping social service providers keep up with rapidly changing and evolving Medicaid policies impacting the work of socials service providers. The bulletin series covers such operating topics as:
- Ensuring that Medicaid Providers Don’t Close Up Shop Amid COVID-19: The government has earmarked funds in recent legislation to support social service providers. The bulletin also has information on flexibility states now have, temporarily modifying payment methodologies, and capitation rates under Medicaid managed care contracts.
- The impact of COVID-19 on Medicaid Enrollment and State Budgets: The pandemic is rapidly increasing SDOH stressors. This includes the worst unemployment in nearly 100 years and tens of millions of people losing their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage triggered by lay-offs. Both expansion and non-expansion states are reporting increases in Medicaid enrollment. Yet states may have to cut Medicaid spending due to tax collection revenue shortfalls driven by the economic slowdown.
- Medicaid providers are calling for the suspension of the pending Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulations (MFAR): According to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, MFAR “… The changes proposed are extremely technical and complex but are likely to have significant implications for provider payment rates and state financing of Medicaid by disrupting current arrangements and restricting the future use of such arrangements…Since all states rely on at least one of these payment or financing mechanisms, the changes could have significant implications for providers and state budgets; but could have vastly different implications across states.”
The CHCS site also offers general resource links for states and a page of pandemic social services links related to a range of SDoH factors. For example, SDoH social service providers can search for assistance programs ranging from food to housing to paying bills at a zip code specific search site sponsored by 211.org.
Keeping Social Services Workers Safe
A third resource published by the nonprofit Global Social Services Workforce Alliance (GSSWA) created a site to promote safety and wellbeing for social services providers. GSSWA seeks to help the social service workforce be appropriately equipped, empowered, and protected to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on at-risk populations.
“However, to do so, they must stay safe and healthy,” said the authors. “This document is intended to provide guidance on how to support the social service workforce and empower them to safely serve children, families, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance is for governments, non-governmental organizations, socials service workers, and their supervisors.”