February 02, 2021
New Blog by Alison Barkoff, Acting Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging
I am humbled and thrilled to have joined ACL on Inauguration Day as Principal Deputy Administrator and to serve as Acting Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging. I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself to ACL’s stakeholders and share some of the critical priorities where we have already begun focusing our work.
ACL’s mission – supporting opportunities for community living and inclusion for all – has been my life’s mission. When my brother Evan was born with an intellectual disability more than 40 years ago, my parents rejected doctors’ recommendations to place him in an institution. Our family joined with other families and self-advocates to develop community services and supports and pass civil rights laws to ensure people with disabilities have the same opportunities as people without disabilities. Today, Evan lives independently with supports, works at a job in the community where he is a valued co-worker, and advocates for disability rights in his own state and nationwide.
Fighting alongside Evan for him to be included, and seeing him thrive in the community, led me to become a civil rights lawyer. I have spent my entire career working in legal and policy advocacy, both inside and outside government, to create a world where every person – regardless of type or level of disability or age – has the opportunity to live and fully participate as a valued member of their community.
It is an honor to join ACL to help lead the agency that serves as the federal focal point for community living and inclusion.
ACL’s mission has always been important. But with COVID-19, our work has become literally a matter of life and death. What we do together has never been more urgent. It is our responsibility to make sure that the needs of older adults and people with disabilities are considered in the federal pandemic response. Our role has been, and will continue to be, crucial in:
- vaccine allocation and administration;
- protecting the lives of people with disabilities and older adults who live in congregate settings that put them at high risk;
- ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities are not discriminated against in getting lifesaving care;
- advocating for the needs of the workforce – including volunteers and families – who provides services and supports;
- helping people remain safely in, and transition back to, the community; and
- supporting our networks, which have not only innovated and persevered to continue providing critical services to millions of people, but also have found ways to expand services to meet the increased needs created by the pandemic.
And that’s just a partial list! Clearly COVID-19 will be a critical focus for ACL and our programs for the foreseeable future.
I next want to share a few of the other priorities that also will be threaded throughout our work:
Stakeholder Engagement: Working with our networks and stakeholders is a top priority for me. As public servants, we work for the people. We cannot represent the interests of the disability and aging communities unless we regularly and actively engage with them to learn about their priorities and concerns.
Building Equity: We will build a focus on equity into all we do. Older adults and people with disabilities from underrepresented and underserved communities must be at the table, informing our work. Together we can begin to address the long-standing barriers faced by people with disabilities and older adults, especially people from communities of color and others who are multiply marginalized. I am thrilled that Reyma McCoy McDeid, who is nationally known for her work to address systemic disparities, has joined ACL as the Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities to help lead our efforts to address equity.
One ACL: The disability and aging communities have a larger voice, more influence and ultimately are more successful advocates when we work together to advance shared interests. We already are collaborating on a range of priorities – from the recent reauthorization of Money Follows the Person and the HCBS Spousal Impoverishment Protections, to COVID-19 relief advocacy, to supporting family caregivers and strengthening the direct care workforce. At ACL, we are committed to finding every opportunity to join forces on the issues that affect both older adults and people with disabilities. At the same time, our work will continue to recognize that there are distinct programs and unique needs and issues for the two populations. We will continue to advocate on behalf of the two groups individually, as well.
Interagency Collaboration: Community inclusion is a cross-cutting endeavor. It involves access to services and supports, protecting rights and preventing abuse, housing, transportation, employment, and more. For the federal government, that means “disability” and “aging” can’t be siloed in one agency or even one department. We must work with our federal partners within HHS, as well as with the Departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Education, and others. A priority for ACL will be strengthening those collaborations so we can support and align community living policies, programs, and research across the government.
We have come a long way, and community living is increasingly the expectation, not the exception. However, we all know there is still a long way to go to achieve our vision, in which all people, regardless of age or disability, live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society. I am honored to be working alongside the exceptionally dedicated professionals and self-advocates throughout our networks, across the government, and within ACL to make that vision a reality.
Alison Barkoff was sworn in as ACL’s Principal Deputy Administrator on January 20, 2021, and currently serves as ACL’s Acting Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging.
Protect Your Health this Flu Season
July 01, 2020
Medicare and Michigan’s New Auto Insurance Law
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Jolene English Awarded the 2020 Joanne Konkle Leadership Award
In an unanimous vote, the Senior Millage Allocation Committee has chosen to award the Joanne Konkle Lifetime Leadership Award to Jolene English, a longtime employee of CareWell Services Southwest. The Senior Millage Allocation Committee is a 13-member volunteer board, which oversees the administration of Calhoun County Senior Millage.
Jolene truly exemplifies a lifetime of service to older adults, having served over 23 years in Calhoun County and 34 years serving seniors throughout southern Michigan. Jolene started work at CareWell Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Barry and Calhoun counties, in 1996, and has served in numerous positions, but is best known for her involvement in the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP). Through her work, Jolene identified other areas of concern for county seniors and was influential in working with Guardian Finance & Advocacy Services to help persons with guardians access Medicare Part D and other public services; partnering with the Climate Change Coalition to provide energy efficient light bulbs to CareWell clients; and collaborating with the Battle Creek Fire Department to install smoke detectors in seniors homes, free of charge. While Jolene’s focus was Medicare and Medicaid issues, she never hesitated to step outside the box and figure out what other issues she could help seniors solve.
In 2009, Jolene was recognized for Outstanding Service to Michigan’s Medicare Beneficiaries and Outstanding Achievement Meeting Core Contract Goals from the statewide MMAP organization. In 2011, Jolene and her MMAP team were again recognized by the state with the MIPPA Helping Hand Award for enrolling the most low-income beneficiaries in the Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs. And in 2013, Jolene won the coveted Regional Coordinator of the Year for the state of Michigan.
In 2015, Jolene moved to part-time in order to care for her aging life partner. Even while grieving, she continued to serve county seniors in figuring out complex Medicare and Medicaid issues. Since stepping down from the Medicare/Medicaid Coordinator role, Jolene has mentored her two Regional Coordinator successors.
CareWell CEO Karla Fales states, “Jolene exemplifies our values of respect, teamwork and compassion, not just in her work ethics but how she lives her personal life. She sees a need and is willing to come alongside to help individuals navigate to a solution. She is a social worker at heart – a social worker who believes in the power of people helping each other and themselves. I think these are values that Joanne would be proud to have aligned with an award bearing her name.”
It is exceptionally fitting to award this recognition to Jolene, as she and Joanne Konkle both received their social work degrees from Western Michigan University, and both women were well known and well-loved for their baked goods. Joanne’s specialty was banana bread, while Jolene’s is banana blueberry muffins.
An in-person presentation of the award is planned for the Thursday, August 20, 2020 Calhoun County Board of Commissioners meeting, barring any additional COVID-19 restrictions.
First approved by voters in 1996, Senior Millage funds 22 programs to serve older adults, age 60 and over. Senior Millage is on the ballot for a ten year renewal on August 4, 2020. In 2019, Senior Millage funded programs served over 6,600 older adults.
This leadership award was established in 2017 to honor the lifetime work of Joanne Konkle (1934-2018) who retired as the Administrator of the Calhoun County Medical Care Facility after 19 years in 2003, and then gave many years of exceptional volunteer service to the Calhoun County Senior Millage Allocation Committee, the Forks Senior Center in Albion, and the Marian Burch Adult Day Care Center in Battle Creek. When Joanne started her career in Social Work, she helped establish the Marian Burch Adult Day Care by writing a grant to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In the 1970s, Joanne was a Calhoun County Board Commissioner. This award recognizes professionals in service to the aged that have followed Joanne Konkle’ s example of providing public service with compassion, commitment, and generosity.
May 06, 2020
MMAP Client Testimonial
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to express my appreciation for Ms. Cierra Anderson’s kindness, humanity, professionalism, and patience. On the back of the book “Medicare & You”, I found this number 1-800-803-7174 that says call this number for free personalized health insurance counseling. I did and I talked to Ms. Anderson, she listened very patiently and attentively to all I had to say, then she made a conference call with WellCare Insurance Company, Ms. Anderson very eloquently and professionally conveyed the information that eventually Accounting Supervisor Ms. Samantha from WellCare admitted to their mistakes. I thank Ms. Anderson from the bottom of my heart, that after five months of stress, depression and frustration dealing with WellCare customer service managers, and not getting my eye drops, it was very gratifying to see someone really cares.
Thank you, Ms. Anderson, keep up the excellent work.
Only one question remains, When an Insurance Company tries to take advantage of senior citizens by misinformation, who should be responsible a senior citizen or Insurance company that Medicare trusted???
MMAP Client Region 1-A
October 15, 2019
MMAP MEDICARE AWARENESS DAY
Dr. Alexis Travis, Senior Deputy Director of the Aging & Adult Services Agency (AASA) for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) presents Jo Murphy, Executive Director for the Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) a CERTIFICATE OF PROCLAMATION signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
MI Health Link is a new health care option for Michigan adults, ages 21 or over, who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, and live in the counties of Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, Macomb, St. Joseph, Van Buren, Wayne or any county in the Upper Peninsula. This option is made available through the Affordable Care Act.
Call today to learn more!
If you have general questions about your MI Health Link enrollment options you may
call the Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Program (MMAP).
What is MI Health Link?
MI Health Link is a new health care option with built-in care coordination for Medicare and Medicaid services.
MI Health Link offers:
Are you eligible for MI Health Link?
In order to be eligible for MI Health Link you must:
Live in one of the following counties:
Are age 21 or older
Have full Medicare and full Medicaid
Why Choose MI Health Link?
You will not pay any co-payments or deductibles for in-network services including prescriptions (nursing home patient pay amounts still apply).
You have one plan and one card for all your Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
You will have your own Care Coordinator who will:
You can include your existing case manager or support coordinator in your integrated care team.
You will keep your current rights and services if you enroll.
What to Expect
If you are eligible for MI Health Link you will receive a letter that will explain:
Michigan Medicare / Medicaid Assistance Program
MDCH is an equal opportunity employer, services and program provider.