Ocean County, NJ is home to more than 160,000 older adults, including more than 25,000 seniors aged 85+. Community Services, Inc. (CSI) of Ocean County is one of several partners working with the New Jersey Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) grantee to help low-income seniors enroll in programs that assist with their health care and prescription costs. Here are a few of their innovative strategies for enrolling vulnerable Ocean County seniors into benefits.

What did they do?

Many of CSI’s creative approaches to outreach and enrollment have combined the use of trusted local sources and other benefits and services (e.g., nutrition assistance and tax programs) to cast a wider net and reach persons who may not have specifically sought out health/prescription assistance. For example:

  • Reverse 9-1-1 calls. Leaders in Manchester Township express a commitment to helping vulnerable seniors in their area access benefits. As a result, Manchester Senior Outreach—one of CSI’s local partners—used the township’s reverse 9-1-1 system to inform 7,220 households of two MIPPA enrollment breakfasts that also included application assistance for Farmer’s Market Vouchers and Food Stamps.
  • Multimedia outlets. CSI engaged a variety of outlets to get the word out to its target audience. A county freeholder and the AAA director appeared on “Ocean County Focus,” a local cable show, and WOBM Radio to encourage LIS and MSP enrollment. CSI also worked to get stories about their efforts into local newspapers, and ran an article in the AAA’s newsletter (circulation 5,000) and in a large retirement village newsletter.
  • Leveraging other public services and programs. Knowing that many seniors eligible to receive LIS and MSP have other assistance needs, CSI paired its MIPPA outreach with a farmers’ market screening in Toms River, at its nutrition centers, and at 13 public housing buildings. Plumsted Township, one of two federally-designated rural areas in Ocean County, also mailed MSP flyers with its third quarter tax bills to every home in the town (3,200).

What were the results?

Reverse 9-1-1 calls

Over 500 Manchester Township residents responded to the MIPPA breakfast invitation. Municipal and County officials were there to greet residents as they arrived and served coffee to those lined up around the enrollment site waiting to get in. 315 one-on-one screenings were completed for MIPPA, Senior Nutrition Farmer’s Market and SNAP (Food Stamps) benefits. Fifty-eight residents were enrolled for LIS, MSP and/or NJ’s State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP).

Multimedia outlets

May, June, and July 2010 were media blitz months for MIPPA in Ocean County. During these three months, 1,042 Ocean County residents were screened for MIPPA (represents 70% of total residents screened between April 2010 – February 2011). 315 were enrolled in LIS, MSP and/or NJ’s SPAP (represents 51% of total applications submitted for LIS, MSP and/or NJ’s SPAP between April 2010 – February 2011). After the initial media blitz, the effectiveness of the media campaigns in reaching the target group with program information and eligibility requirements can be seen by a comparison of the percentage of screenings to applications submitted from April 2010 – July 2010 (1,042 screenings/315 applications, or 30% enrollment rate), and August 2010 – February 2011 (485 screenings/298 applications or, 61% enrollment rate).

Leveraging other public services and programs

429 residents were screened for MIPPA benefits and during Senior Nutrition Farmer’s Market distribution events at 13 public housing buildings and rural locations in Ocean County. Forty-six residents were enrolled in LIS, MSP and/or NJ’s SPAP. Although CSI did not track the number of referrals made to SNAP, residents were referred at every distribution/enrollment event. Where applicable, screenings for help with utility bills are also advertised and conducted.

For more information

Community Services, Inc.