Ambassadors of the Year get Ready to Head to Washington, D.C. for Annual Awards Trip!

Ambassadors of the year in action! On May 9, each state winner will head to Washington D.C. and find out who this year’s overall winner is.

When the Government Affairs Office (GAO) launched the Hearts for Home Care Ambassador program nearly ten years ago, we envisioned that each service office would assign a designee who would essentially act as the GAO liaison for that office. How much we’ve grown! Today, our Ambassadors go above and beyond to be the voice for our staff and clients, and we are proud to reward them for their efforts!

Over the past year, the Ambassador program has grown tremendously, with nearly 80 more BAYADA office employees serving as Ambassadors than last year. Not only are these numbers a great indicator of growth, but our Ambassadors’ increased engagement shows how each one is truly a leader and innovator in their office, and in legislators’ offices around the country.

Each year, we choose an Ambassador of the Year from each GAO state, and each state winner joins GAO in a special recognition trip to Washington, D.C. The following Ambassadors went so far above and beyond in their advocacy efforts—whether it be through legislative visits, home visits, helping with testimony, or other creative ventures—that GAO chose them as their state’s Ambassador of the Year: Justin Booker (NY), Beth Schenck (RI), Lisa Minnella (NJ), Tom Johnson-Medland (PA), Victoria Carter (DE/MD), Trip Smithdeal (NC), Jenni Cairns (SC), and Doug McNew (GA). Additionally, each year GAO chooses a “Rookie Ambassador of the Year,” this year being Rebecca Gaughan of the Poppy Division.

All nine winners will attend the Ambassador of the Year Awards trip to Washington, DC, on May 9-10. During the trip, our guests will enjoy an overnight stay on Capitol Hill, a guided sightseeing tour, and a private awards dinner where we will announce the overall Ambassador of the Year winner! In addition to the trip, this year, GAO surprised each state winner “Publisher’s Clearing House-style” in person at their office in front of their peers. Our Ambassadors do so much to be the voice of our staff and clients, GAO is excited to take them on an exciting trip and make sure that they have a great time.

To learn about what each individual Ambassador did to win this prestigious title, click here for a summary or look back on previous Bulletin articles through March and April, where we highlighted their accomplishments and creative approaches to advocacy! The primary responsibility for the GAO Ambassadors is to develop and foster relationships with their legislators through district office meetings and home visits so that our state and federal decision makers understand what home care is and how it affects their constituents. 

Our Ambassador program continues to grow and reach new heights—and we are always open to more involvement! Our Ambassadors serve as the forefront of our advocacy program, and truly make the difference in educating local legislators about home care and its impact on clients and communities. If you are interested in learning more about the Ambassador program or how you can get involved, email msokoloski@bayada.com today!

Legislation Close to our Hearts: NJ Mobility Bill Named after Hearts for Home Care Advocate’s Daughter, Mary!

Mom Tara Montague (left) and daughter Mary (center) during a home visit with Asw. Carol Murphy. Asw. Murphy recently introduced “Mary’s Law.”

Home care supporter and New Jersey Assemblywoman Carol Murphy recently introduced a bill which will address unequal access to the purchase of modified vans through the Catastrophic illness in Children Relief Fund.

Assemblywoman Murphy was alerted to the issue after Hearts for Home Care manager and advocate Tara Montague told her about the issue, and how it has impacted her daughter, Mary, and many of New Jersey’s medically fragile children. Mary and Tara have utilized the fund, and have been important advocates in ensuring the fund is both adequately funded and accessible for the many New Jersey residents that need it.

Currently, families can apply to the Catastrophic Fund to purchase a modified van so that they can safely transport their medically fragile child. However, current regulations require that families pay for the van upfront and wait to be reimbursed by the Fund. This stipulation presents a sincere barrier to transportation for families that cannot afford to front tens of thousands of dollars while they wait to be reimbursed.

Mary’s Law addresses this issue by requiring the Catastrophic Fund to provide direct payments for the purchases of specialized, modified motor vehicles. In addition, this legislation will increase the annual surcharge for New Jersey employers from $1.50 to $3.00 per employee to insure the Catastrophic Fund is adequately funded to meet the its purpose and demands.

“Medically fragile children like Mary deserve to travel safely and freely. This legislation ensures that children and their families receive the help they need regardless of their financial situations. Ever since Mary was born, I’ve been a staunch advocate for her needs and for better laws and policies, but I never thought advocacy could hit so close to home–Mary and our family are ecstatic that we can bring about change for all New Jersey’s children and families that need it,” said Tara.

Thank you to Tara and Mary for continuing to be effective advocates on access to transportation. Hearts for Home Care will continue to provide updates as the legislation progresses through New Jersey committees and chambers. If you have questions about this legislation or how to get more involved in advocacy on behalf of yourself, a loved one, or your staff and clients, please contact advocacy@bayada.com today.

Legislation Close to our Hearts: NJ Mobility Bill Named after BAYADA Client Mary Montague!

Mom Tara Montague (left) and daughter Mary (center) during a home visit with Asw. Carol Murphy. Asw. Murphy recently introduced “Mary’s Law.”

BAYADA Legislative Champion, Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, recently introduced a bill which will address unequal access to the purchase of modified vans through the Catastrophic illness in Children Relief Fund. The bill is named after BAYADA client Mary Montague. Not only is Mary a client—but the daughter of an employee! Mom Tara Montague works in the Government Affairs Office (GAO) as client and family advocacy manager. Mary and Tara have utilized the fund, and have been important advocates in ensuring the fund is both adequately funded and accessible for the many New Jersey residents that need it.

Currently, families can apply to the Catastrophic Fund to purchase a modified van so that they can safely transport their medically fragile child. However, current regulations require that families pay for the van upfront and wait to be reimbursed by the Fund. This stipulation presents a sincere barrier to transportation for families that cannot afford to front tens of thousands of dollars while they wait to be reimbursed.

Mary’s Law addresses this issue by requiring the Catastrophic Fund to provide direct payments for the purchases of specialized, modified motor vehicles. In addition, this legislation will increase the annual surcharge for New Jersey employers from $1.50 to $3.00 per employee to insure the Catastrophic Fund is adequately funded to meet the its purpose and demands.

“Medically fragile children like Mary deserve to travel safely and freely. This legislation ensures that children and their families receive the help they need regardless of their financial situations. Ever since Mary was born, I’ve been a staunch advocate for her needs and for better laws and policies, but I never thought advocacy could hit so close to home–Mary and our family are ecstatic that we can bring about change for all New Jersey’s children and families that need it,” said Tara.

Thank you to Tara and Mary for continuing to be effective advocates on access to transportation. GAO will continue to provide updates as the legislation progresses through New Jersey committees and chambers.

If you have questions about this legislation or how to get more involved in advocacy at BAYADA on behalf of yourself, a loved one, or your staff and clients, please contact advocacy@bayada.com today.

Top Participating Divisions with Recent Federal Action Alerts

BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) offers employees and clients many ways to get involved in advocacy through our Hearts for Home Care program. One of the very easiest ways to get involved with advocacy right from your cell phone or desk is by taking action on an Action Alert. Generally, GAO will send out an action alert email to all employees, or employees in a certain state, when a piece of legislation requires support or opposition from our elected officials. Action alerts take two minutes to complete and most of the work is done for you—All you need to do is click a couple of buttons in order to send a pre-written email to your legislators to encourage their action!

During the previous quarter, GAO sent out two federal action alerts to all BAYADA office staff. The first alert was sent on February 14 and requested that employees take action to urge their officials to support a bill to counteract certain sections of the Patient Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) that would be harmful to our Home Health staff and clients. The second alert was sent on February 27, and asked that employees urge their federal legislators to support action to revise an outdated Medicare requirement to allow non-physician practitioners (NPPs), such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to certify a patient’s eligibility for coverage of home health services. You can still take action on this alert here.

See the results of both action alerts below. Congratulations to the Firewheel and Flame Lily divisions, which had the most participation in these two alerts! We are proud of your commitment to advocacy and your dedication to speaking to our many clients that do not have the voice to speak for themselves!

Thank you to the many employees that took action and encouraged their peers to do so as well. As you can see from the below charts, both alerts—which both impact our Home Health employees and clients the most—continue to see relatively low participation. It’s important that we share our voices wherever possible, and particularly for Action Alerts that are easy to complete. We are hoping that all BAYADA employees recommit to advocacy. During the next federal action alert we hope to see 50% or more office staff participation.

25 BAYADA Advocates Gather for Inspiring and Record-Breaking Legislative Day in Columbia, SC

Top left & bottom right: 25 BAYADA employees and clients joined the South Carolina Home Care and Hospice Association’s second annual Legislative Advocacy Day
Top right: Stephanie Black, Vickie Nelson, Dave Totaro, and Melissa Allman meet with Senator Thomas Nelson (center)
Bottom left: BAYADA Rock Hill (ROC) office employees pose in front of the SC capitol. Left to right: Nurse Michelle Ghent, Director Jenni Cairns, and nurse Cathy Medeiros (2017 LPN National Hero)

On March 6, 24 energetic BAYADA employees and one BAYADA Assistive Care State Programs (ACSP) client gathered in South Carolina’s state capitol for a day of meaningful and heartfelt advocacy. The South Carolina Home Care and Hospice Association (SCHCHA) hosted its second annual Legislative Advocacy Day, and this year, a record-breaking total of nearly 60 advocates attended!

BAYADA’s advocates joined other attendees and walked the halls with a clear message: Investing in our Nursing Medicaid Waiver programs will save the state money and keep our medically fragile children, disabled adults, and seniors home with their loved ones and out of higher cost facilities.  We care about home care, and so should you!

With their passionate message in hand, advocates spoke with over 50 legislators about the importance of home care. This year we were able to speak to all key lawmakers in both the House and Senate to ensure our message was heard by as many ears–and the right ears–as possible.

“Advocacy can’t be effective with only one person working towards a goal–one voice can only go so far! That’s why I am so proud to work in South Carolina, where so many of our office employees, field employees, and clients recognize the importance of sharing their voices too. The more impassioned people we have involved, the more of a difference we can make on behalf of all South Carolinians that rely on home care,” said GAO director Melissa Allman.

BAYADA employees were excited and inspired by the impact they made that day. Thank you to the many participants for the difference you make on behalf of all South Carolinians that rely on home care to stay independent in their communities!

GAO Jetsetters: Making the Rounds in Washington, D.C., Arizona, and Colorado

Left: GAO Ambassadors Anthony D’Alonzo and David Mead, and GAO Grassroots Senior Manager Mike Sokoloski in front of the US Capitol
Right Top: Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) poses with GAO Senior Associate Lindsey Wright and Chief Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro
Right Bottom: Advocates, including GAO Director Shannon Gahs (second from right), join in NAHC’s March on Washington

BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) staff members often say, “Advocacy never sleeps.” For the GAO federal affairs team—Government Affairs Officer Dave Totaro and Senior Associate Lindsey Wright—we can also say “Advocacy never stays put.” Over the past quarter, GAO has traveled to Washington, D.C. several times, as well as to Massachusetts, Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and Colorado—among other places.

Most often, GAO travels specifically to meet with legislators in D.C. and around the country to educate them about home care and the benefit it has in keeping millions of America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities independent and in their communities. Most recently, the federal affairs team has also taken to visiting BAYADA’s Home Health service offices to get employees involved in advocacy.

In late February, Dave and Lindsey traveled to D.C.’s Capitol Hill to meet with 11 key congressional members and their staff. On April 2, they traveled back to the Capitol along with two Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors—Anthony D’Alonzo (MHH) and David Mead (NLP)—and other GAO staff—to participate in the National Association for Home Care and Hospice’s (NAHC) annual March on Washington. This year, marchers were asked to educate legislators on two important bills: The Patient Driven Groupings Model bill, which if passed will eliminate reimbursement cuts based on behavioral assumptions, and the Home Health Improvement Planning Act, which if passed will allow non-physician practitioners to sign off on care plans. The visits were successful and resulted in additional cosponsors for both bills.  

GAO’s Dave Totaro and Lindsey Wright visited four Home Health service offices in Arizona and Colorado. Clockwise from top left: GAO and HH office staff in the SVV, FCV, GLF/VGL, and DNF/DNV offices.

The two-person federal affairs team can only make so much headway alone. GAO relies on advocates like you to make sure that all legislators hear our messages loud and clear. Dave and Lindsey have begun traveling to Home Health service offices around the country to tell employees what they can do to get themselves and their clients involved in advocacy, and the importance of doing so.

“As much as I travel to spread our message to our country’s decision makers, it’s important that I also use my time to get our staff involved. Home Health employees and clients are affected by what our legislators and regulators in D.C. make decisions on every day. The more our people mobilize and advocate, the more those decision makers will see how their choices affect real people’s lives,” said Dave Totaro.

During their trip to four Home Health service offices across Arizona and Colorado, Dave and Lindsey focused on Medicare policies, current bills, and how employees can get involved to make a difference. They also listened to each office’s unique challenges in delivering care to clients, and how policy changes could alleviate some of those issues. Thank you to the many BAYADA service offices that welcomed GAO with open arms and open minds, as well as to the employees who signed up to become Ambassadors. To learn about ways you, your staff, and your clients can advocate, contact Lindsey Wright at lwright@bayada.com. We look forward to working with you!

41 BAYADA Home Health Aides nominated for Pennsylvania Direct Care Worker of the Year Awards

Left: PA Secretary of Aging Robert Torres (left) poses with several BAYADA nominees
Center: Aides and guests from Philadelphia arrive in Harrisburg
Right: Secretary Torres announces the Direct Care Worker of the Year!

This year, BAYADA proudly nominated 41 home health aides for the Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s (PHA) annual Direct Care Worker (DCW) of the Year Award. This prestigious award, cosponsored by the Department of Aging, is meant to recognize the state’s hardworking home health aides and reward an aide that has gone above and beyond his or her duties.

On March 27, BAYADA’s nominees joined more than 200 other DCWs from 50 counties across the state in Harrisburg, where nominees and guests enjoyed a variety of activities and informational sessions during the Direct Care Worker Forum. PHA hosted a DCW advocacy station that enabled aides to share their voice with legislators. Guests also enjoyed recipe samples and learned about new activities to try with clients. The highlight of the opening events was a Dementia Live simulation, which gave attendees a walk in the lives of clients suffering from Dementia.

Guests were then invited to sit down for the official Awards program. Each year, PHA recognizes all nominees for the outstanding work they do keeping thousands of older Pennsylvanians and those with disabilities at home and in their communities. After all nominations are received, PHA’s selection committee reviews each nominee and picks one overall winner. As the ceremony began, PHA CEO Vicki Hoak welcomed the attendees with a thank you message from the nominators for all the wonderful work they’ve done over the past year. Lisa Story, Founder and Executive Director from the nonprofit Hope Grows spoke on the importance of caregivers’ self-care. Finally, Acting Secretary of Aging Robert Torres announced the winner of the year, El Hassania El Bedraoui from Jevs Care at Home.

Congratulations to all the direct care workers who were nominated for this year’s award. BAYADA is proud to be involved with a program that demonstrates the state’s commitment to elevating the direct care worker profession and spotlighting the value of serving as a professional caregiver. Thank you to all our home health aides—your compassion and hard work truly exemplify The BAYADA Way.

Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) Legislative Day Pictures

On April 9, more than 300 home care advocates—clients, families, caregivers, and employees—joined the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) at the state capitol in Harrisburg. Advocates met with hundreds of the state’s representatives and senators to deliver an important message: Home care is important to me, and it should be important to you too.

Check out pictures from the legislative reception, the kickoff rally, legislative day meetings, and the PHA press conference! Care about home care and want to share your voice? Check out heartsforhomecare.com or email advocacy@bayada.com to find out how you can get involved in advocacy today!

CLICK TO SEE PICTURES

Home Health Aides’ Low Wages: Turning Public Awareness into Action

Home health aides keep hundreds of thousands of disabled adults and seniors at home and out of costlier settings. Low Medicaid reimbursement rates keep them from making a better wage, and it's up to state governments to address this issue.
Home health aides keep hundreds of thousands of disabled adults and seniors at home and out of costlier settings.

As home care clients, employees, caregivers, and family members, we know one thing for a fact: Home health aides do incredible, compassionate work that enable hundreds of thousands of residents across the country to stay at home and out of costlier, more infectious settings like nursing homes and hospitals. And we certainly know another fact: The work that aides do is invaluable, and it’s time that they begin to receive a fair wage for the hard work they do.

Low aide wages have recently made national headlines and the message is clear: We will need more and more home health aides as America’s population continues to age. But home health care providers are having trouble recruiting and retaining the quality, reliable workforce needed to keep up with the growing demand.

Recently, Hearts for Home Care advocate and BAYADA Home Health Care’s chief government affairs officer, Dave Totaro, submitted his opinion on the matter to STAT News, a media company focused on finding and telling compelling stories about health, medicine, and scientific discovery. He posed the question:

“To say that home health aides’ work is demanding is an understatement. They make it possible for 14 million Americans to stay in their homes and out of expensive and impersonal institutional settings like hospitals and nursing homes. Performing this necessary and in-demand work takes a physical and emotional toll, yet these individuals do it with compassion day in and day out.

So why do we treat home health aides as low-wage, low-value workers?”

The problem lies primarily in states’ low Medicaid funding for home care programs. Though states typically pay an hourly rate for providers who deliver home health aide services, these rates have largely been low for many years, or raised periodically, but at a rate too low to keep up with real costs of living and providing services. Because these rates must cover wages, training, benefits, new hire costs such as background checks and TB shots, and supplies, it is nearly impossible for home health care companies to take such a low rate and provide aides with a wage high enough to compete with industries like fast food and retail.

News coverage of the issue has been effective in bringing greater public awareness to the issue, especially as nearly all individuals will be touched by home care at least once in their lives, whether it be for themselves, a parent, friend, or other loved one. Now is the time to take awareness and turn it into action. Call your state legislator and let them know what home care means to you. Contact advocacy@bayada.com for information on what you can do to share your voice and support home health aides.

Families with Medically-Complex Loved Ones are Struggling in Maryland, and Across the Country

Hagerstown, MD mother Kimberley Lanham needs skilled nursing care to keep her son at home, but she—and many—are struggling to access the care they need.

Maryland families struggle to find enough home care nurses due to low state Medicaid reimbursement rates

We all know nurses as skilled, compassionate professionals that care for us when we are at our most sick and vulnerable. But for many families in Maryland and across the country, their care isn’t limited to a short hospital stay or recovery period. Instead, many individuals and families rely on skilled nursing care every day—and they aren’t getting it.

For individuals like Kimberley Lanham’s son Nathen, who was recently documented on Hagerstown, MD’s WVDM 25, skilled nursing means round-the-clock care. Nathen needs constant skilled medical attention in order to stay at home and grow up living in a safe and familiar environment with family and friends. The problem is, in many states, home care nurses simply aren’t available.

Why? Because home care nurses are often drawn to work in other settings and in surrounding states where they can earn more.

“Maryland’s nurses can make more in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, and in nearly any surrounding state or Washington, DC. The care they’re providing requires a high level of skill that continues to increase. We need to pay these highly-skilled nurses the wages they deserve. With low Maryland Medicaid rates, we can’t. It’s not only affecting those nurses, but also those individuals that need their care to live with their families and out of residential institutions,” says BAYADA Director of Government Affairs Shannon Gahs.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Brenda White has been caring for Nathen for nearly 13 years and stays in home care despite knowing that she could make more elsewhere. “You’re doing everything for a patient that can’t do anything at all for themselves, and you wonder, why. Why are they getting paid more? They’re not doing half as what I’m doing,” she said.

In Maryland and in many other states, Medicaid reimbursement rates for home nursing services have fallen well below the cost of living, and home care providers can’t compete with hospitals and other settings that can pay higher wages.

“When nurses are being attracted to hospitals and nursing homes at the rate we are seeing, home care agencies simply can’t keep up. If the state were to allocate sufficient funding, then providers would be better able to recruit and retain the quality skilled nurses that they need, and families like Kimberley and Nathen’s wouldn’t be left in the lurch,” says Dawn Seek, Executive Director of the Maryland-National Capital Homecare Association (MNCHA).

Nathen has Cerebral Palsy and a seizure disorder that often requires emergency medicine, but his mother Kimberley can only access nursing coverage for a small fraction of the time that Nathen is authorized for. “Although I’m with a nursing agency, Optimal Health Care (OHC), they don’t have anyone to do the hours. Everyone is going to other facilities to work,” said Kimberley.

Hearts for Home Care members and other advocates are asking the state to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for home nursing care by 21% to put it back on track with wages that other settings and surrounding states can pay. However, currently, the state is only committed to a 3% increase. “It’s just not enough,” says Gahs. “While the state of Maryland has incrementally raised the rate by about 1-2% over the past decade, it has fallen way behind. 3% will not help us recruit and retain the nurses necessary to keep up with the demand, and families may even need to turn to other options. Providers, advocates, and families are looking for more.”

The good news is that, along with the Hagerstown coverage, the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post have also covered the growing crisis in Maryland over the past several months. Across the country, home care recipients, families, and advocates with the same issue are beginning to speak out to catch the ear of reporters and elected officials. While public awareness is increasing, moms like Kimberley are hoping that the governor’s and legislators’ eyes are also on the issue.

“It’s time for the state to do something. My son deserves to live at home, surrounded by his family and the things he loves. I’m already struggling. If I lost my nursing coverage even more, I may have to send him to a [nursing] home,” says Kimberley.

Join mothers like Kimberley and other advocates who are beginning to band their voices together in support of families’ increased access to home nursing care. To learn more about what you can do, contact advocacy@bayada.com today.