Specifically, we continue to promote our Volunteer Advocate Program in order to reach our goal of having at least one advocate assigned to every Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) in the state. In addition, our I Choose Home NJ/Money Follows the Person program is now fully staffed. The sole focus of this federally-funded program is to inform SNF staff, residents and their families about the availability of home- and community-based services that may make it possible for some SNF residents to return home.
As a result of these outreach activities, the ICHNJ team has identified about 130 individuals who have expressed a desire to transition back into the community. Many of these people have either already moved or are awaiting a community placement. If they are not eligible for ICHNJ, every effort is made to link them to an appropriate program to meet their needs.
Also as a result of our expanded outreach activities, we have seen an increase in the number of people participating in the OOIE Volunteer Advocate program. In mid-2011, the Volunteer Advocate Program had about 150 active volunteers. Today, the program has 210 volunteers with an additional 40 in the pipeline currently being trained and readied for placement in early 2014.
Finally, I am proud of the work my staff has done to broaden our outreach to include hands-on assistance to citizens in need in the City of Trenton, where the OOIE is headquartered. Taking our lead from Governor Chris Christie’s highly successful “Season of Service” campaign, OOIE staff recently lent a hand at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and Crisis Ministry food pantry. These activities, coupled with the important work we do every day, make me proud to head an agency that has such a direct and significant impact on the lives of our fellow citizens.
Wishing you all a healthy and happy holiday season.
- James McCracken