News : In Worcester, State Launches Health Options Call Network
Worchester, MA, USA, Nov 17, 2015 -- Dawn Dias, a call center specialist for MassOptions at University of Massachusetts Medical School's affiliate, UHealthSolutions, had just spent 17 minutes on the phone with a woman from Cape Cod. The caller was looking for help with her aging mother, who was having trouble with her memory. She didn't know where to turn.
Ms. Dias reassured the caller that she would help connect her mother with services in her area and she would also help the caller find support for herself.
"She was extremely happy she had someplace to go," Ms. Dias said. "She sounded very relieved on the phone."
At a press conference Tuesday announcing the new MassOptions program, state Assistant Secretary of Elder Affairs Carole L. Malone said, "Prior to the launch of this, there was really no one place for the average person to call."
She said MassOptions can sift through community resources statewide to provide personal, locally-based direction for "that person who doesn't know."
Funded as part of a Balancing Incentive Program grant from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and administered by the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, MassOptions call center specialists are trained to link callers to long-term services and support for elders, people with disabilities and caregivers.
A public awareness campaign recently began advertising the toll-free phone number, 1-844-422-6277, as well as the website.
"We feel that having people aware of the various options is critical," said Joyce A. Murphy, executive vice chancellor for UMass Medical School's Commonwealth Medicine. "I still think in the entire health care arena, it's very complicated for people to navigate."
Ms. Murphy said MassOptions would complement and connect people to other regional or local services such as Aging Service Access Points, agencies on aging, senior centers and independent living centers.
Lt. Gov. Karyn E. Polito said MassOptions would be a "more user-friendly and less time-consuming" way to connect to the appropriate service, regardless of insurance or income. Some 176,000 people called the Executive Office of Elder Affairs in fiscal 2015 looking for help.
Secretary of Elder Affairs Alice Bonner said when she was talking to call center specialists, "They were really struck by the need out there in getting through the bureaucracy."
Ms. Bonner said trained specialists will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week to be a "warm and welcoming" resource that won't leave people stranded on the phone lines. Services are available in English and Spanish. Translation services will be available during regular operating hours to support other languages as well.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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UHealthSolutions, a nonprofit affiliate of UMass Medical School, manages health care business operations, such as third-party administration, business process outsourcing, call centers, patient communication, and technology.
Published: Thursday, November 19, 2015