New Health and Senior Care Initiatives Highlighted at ANC 5B Meeting

At 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27, residents served by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B gathered in the St. John’s Grand Lodge for their monthly meeting. The meeting, which lasted approximately 80 minutes, mainly focused on new community initiatives that seek to promote the wellbeing of residents, particularly seniors.

Commissioner Ursula Higgins led the evening’s proceedings in the presence of fellow Commissioners Ra Amin and Gayle Hall-Carley. Despite the absence of Commissioners Henri Makembe and Landon Jones, and several residents who chose to attend a Crime Watch meeting in Ward 5D, most items on the agenda proceeded as planned.

As residents slowly trickled into the room, DC Fire and EMS Chief of Communications Doug Buchanan presented new information on the department’s ‘Right Care, Right Now’ program. Right Care, Right Now, according to Buchanan, seeks to “improve the health outcomes of residents in the District.”

This initiative, which is currently in Phase 2, allows FEMS first responders to connect eligible 911 callers from the field to the Right Care, Right Now nurse triage line. In his presentation, Buchanan emphasized the need for this service.

“We are not doing the patients or our department any favors by putting someone with a sore throat or stubbed toe in the back of an ambulance and taking them to the emergency room. This will allow our transport units to be more readily available for patients with life-threatening, serious or critical injuries while also freeing up the beds in the emergency room.”

Deputy Chief Michael Donlon added that this initiative is one of a kind. “70% of EMS calls are non-emergent. Every city in America is fighting the same battle. We’re actually doing something about it.”

One resident, Patrick Flynn, questioned the effectiveness of this initiative for those without medical insurance. “Is there a phase of this to get them on Medicaid?”

Buchanan clarified that only current Medicare enrollees or holders of private insurance would benefit. “Those that have absolutely no insurance, they are self-evaluated and can make an appointment at one of the clinics, but we won’t be able to provide them the transportation.”

Malik Miller, a representative from Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office, furthered contributed to the discussion of resident care as he highlighted the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Safe at Home program, which aims to keep homes “safe and accessible” by prioritizing security adaptations for qualifying seniors and adults with disabilities.

Commissioner Higgins praised the program’s intentions, but also expressed dissatisfaction with some parts of its implementation.

“People need to really know the insides of this thing because if it’s an immediate problem you have, it will not be solved,” she said, citing a 6-month backlog of homes that need to be taken care of. “What should citizens do in the meantime? This is an immediate need.”

Miller acknowledged this concern but was unable to offer direct solutions.

“We’re back and forth with DHCD to see if they can offer different solutions or come up with some type of leeway as far as those situations,” he said.

After an informative presentation by Guest Commissioner Jeremiah Montague Jr. in observance of Black History Month, Emma Klingenstein took the floor to discuss the establishment of a senior village. Klingenstein, whose background is in non-profit management, is working along with residents and council members to ensure the village’s success.

“Our goal is to combat social isolation that seniors face through bringing different generations together in new meaningful ways.” She went on to explain that about 1/3 of seniors in the U.S. admit to suffering from chronic loneliness.

“This has serious health implications and is as impactful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Once it is up and running, the village would be the first of its kind in Ward 5, enriching the lives of participants through recreational activities, educational events, volunteer work, and care services.