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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Aging & Independence Services

Learn how this agency piloted a program to provide intensive case management, education and support for people living with dementia and their caregivers. The service model includes a four-step crisis response approach and crisis prevention education.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Aging & Independence Services' Alzheimer's Response Team (ART). The agency was a 2020 Aging Achievement Award winner in the Elder Abuse Prevention category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
In San Diego County, more than 84,000 people are living with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD). By 2030, it is estimated this will increase to 115,000 individuals. As the number of older adults who have dementia grows, there is a need to address non-medical crises without involving law enforcement, first responders and hospital resources. The Alzheimer's Response Team (ART), a program of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Aging & Independence Services' Adult Protective Services, provides an alternative path with a specialized level of care.
 
ART connects caregivers to community resources through intensive care management and educates caregivers on how to care for a person with dementia at home. The program provides a framework for a coordinated community response. A designated ART phone number for first responders is monitored 24 hours a day. This quick response provides dementia-specific trained professionals directly to the community, contributing to reduced emergency room visits and time spent by law enforcement at the scene.
 
Hundreds of law enforcement and first responder personnel have been trained in recognizing the symptoms of ADRD, the new protocol for triage and the process of calling the dedicated ART line. At the end of the pilot, caregivers reported increased confidence in identifying and responding to ADRD-related behaviors and in caring for loved ones with support from ART.
 
“One of the great successes of the ART program is the advocacy for those living with dementia. This is a direct result of the collaboration between the Adult Protective Services (APS) team and our contracted affiliate, Alzheimer's San Diego (ALZSD). APS is able to focus on addressing safety and protective issues, while ALZSD works with the family on disease education, such as communication techniques,” said Jana Jordan, Principal Administrative Analyst for the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Aging & Independence Services.
 
The ART program had to get creative and work with many clients and families over the phone throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. When a face-to-face visit was deemed necessary, the agency conducted the visit outside the client's house using the appropriate PPE to protect everyone from COVID-19 transmission.
 
To learn more about the ART program and how your agency can replicate this program in your community, contact Jana Jordan, Jana.Jordan@sdcounty.ca.gov.

For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices Clearinghouse page.

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