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LECOM Receives $800K Grant To Expand Senior Care

ERIE, PA – Over the next three years, LECOM Health will be bolstering its outreach to northwestern Pennsylvania’s elderly population, thanks to an award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (ACL).

LECOM Health has received an $819,237 grant through ACL’s 2019 Empowering Older Adults and Adults with Disabilities Through Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Program. With this endowment, LECOM Health will establish Providing Optimal Education and Support for Seniors (PROgrESS), which will deliver education and support programs to thousands of seniors in Erie, Crawford and Warren counties over a three-year period.

PROgrESS has three specific aims. The first is to significantly expand training and the delivery of diabetes and chronic disease self-management education (CDSME) throughout the region. In 2015, LECOM Health established the Lake Erie Integrated Geriatrics Health Team (LIGHT), made possible by a $3.2 million Health Resources and Services Administration Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program grant. LECOM Health has provided numerous CDSME sessions through the LIGHT program, and over the last four years, a substantial number of participants have indicated these workshops have helped them to better manage their conditions as well as improve their physical, emotional and mental health.

Now with the ACL grant, LECOM Health will build upon the success of LIGHT’s CDSME programs through sustainable partnerships with local Area Agencies on Aging, the Greater Erie Community Action Committee and other service organizations to better assist seniors in rural areas as well as in underserved urban sectors.

Another goal of PROgrESS is to initiate HomeMeds, an in-home medication review program. Taking prescribed medications as directed can have a significant impact on chronic disease outcomes and wellness. This new initiative will be used to formalize LECOM Health’s existing efforts to eliminate risky and duplicated medications as well as encourage medication adherence among seniors. PROgrESS will present HomeMeds via its CDSME programs, through LECOM’s home health services and in personal care and independent living facilities. In doing so, the HomeMeds message will reach a larger, more diverse audience.

The final aim of PROgrESS is to adapt LECOM’s existing business models and utilize the health system’s centralized organizational infrastructure to facilitate this new initiative. LifeWorks Erie, the LECOM Institute for Successful Aging and the Visiting Nurse Association of Erie County will implement different aspects of PROgrESS while additional LECOM affiliates will be employed at various stages of patient care. Resources within the LECOM Health system – everything from meeting space and technology access to staff and transportation services – will also be utilized. All in all, PROgrESS will receive more than $200,000 of in-kind support from LECOM Health.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Erie, Crawford and Warren counties are home to a high proportion of adults over age 65, and those seniors are less well educated and more economically vulnerable than other sectors of the population. Meanwhile statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a disproportionate impact on residents in northwestern Pennsylvania – particularly on underserved individuals – compared to other regions of the U.S.

Based on this data and the continued growth of the area’s older population, high-quality, fully integrated and sustainable programs like PROgrESS are becoming crucial, specifically when it comes to reaching those with low health literacy and limited access to resources.

PROgrESS will be directed by James Lin, D.O., director of the LECOM Institute for Successful Aging. A practicing geriatrician, Lin is also LECOM’s vice president of senior services and adult living as well as the principal investigator of the LIGHT program. LECOM Health has already started implementing aspects of PROgrESS in the tri-county region.