Catholic Charities announced in December that Project HOPE (Helping Older People Excel), a care coordination program for seniors in Erie County who have been diagnosed with a mental health illness, recently relocated from 20 Rich St., Buffalo, to its former location at 128 Wilson St., Buffalo.
Brian O'Herron, director of Catholic Charities' Department of Older Adult Services, said the move was made to create a stronger alliance between Project HOPE and the agency's other older adult services, chiefly the Comprehensive Care program, that are housed at Wilson Street.
"Project HOPE and Comprehensive Care are two very similar programs in that they both provide care coordination for adults ages 60 and older in Erie County, with the main difference being Project HOPE requires a mental health diagnosis," O'Herron said. "So with these two programs operating under one roof, and the lines of communication open and accessible for both clients and Catholic Charities staff, we hope to better facilitate collaboration and referrals."
Project HOPE aims to keep older adults with a mental health diagnosis, who are at risk of out-of-home placement, living independently in their home environments. Clients work with a care coordinator and nurses to create an individualized action plan. Potential services offered through Project HOPE include engagement, linkage, medication management and insight, assistance in understanding and obtaining entitlements, and support and guidance.
Comprehensive Care offers older adults in-home case management services to keep them empowered and thriving in their home environments. Like Project HOPE, the program seeks to educate clients about entitlements and supports, as well as offer guidance.
At Wilson Street, both programs will be managed by Bruce Fulcher, who has spent the past year supervising Project HOPE at Rich Street.
Mark Yablin doesn't mince words when asked about where he'd be without Catholic Charities.
"Before I went through Catholic Charities, I was headed for a nervous breakdown," he said. "I couldn't handle anything that was thrown at me. I would just throw the book at the wall, so to speak, and I would want to run away."
As a client of Project HOPE, Yablin began working with a care coordinator within the program and underwent an individualized needs assessment to identify the obstacles and needs he was facing in his day-to-day life. The assessment is a keystone of the program and serves as a springboard of how to best assist the client, said John Jones, Yablin's care coordinator. The assessment helps the care coordinator decide what services, linkages or even advocacy are necessary.
"We're pretty holistic. We look at all aspects of the person, you know, socially, emotionally, psychiatrically and medically. We want to make sure that their needs are met. Do they actually have adequate clothing, shelter and food?" Jones said, adding that if the client does not have those things, Catholic Charities works to make sure those initial needs are met. "I can address what problems they're going through, and then help them. Provide that linkage, get the support they need. I advocate for them when they might not have a voice of their own to really get those needs addressed."
For Yablin, one of his biggest needs is finding day-time social programming that is wheelchair accessible and that is comfortable for him. Currently, Yablin and Jones are working together to find a suitable program.
"Mark was pretty open about what he needed. The social issue is a big part of it, finding appropriate programs in the community where he can get his social needs met," Jones said. "His main hurdles were just reaching out and letting other people know his social needs, making sure those social needs were going to be met, and making sure he was doing it in an appropriate way."
Yablin added that Jones goes with him to visit different day programs to help make the experience go smoothly.
In addition to finding social programming, Jones also helps Yablin work through behavioral issues.
"I have issues with power and territory type things, or, you know, what's appropriate, what's not appropriate. Some things got me into trouble at a program that I was in, and I was not aware of what I was doing because of my learning disability," Yablin said.
Yablin said that when he does feel frustrated, he is able to call Jones and Jones is able to get him to look at things from different perspectives to calm him down.
"I get frustrated, but I know there's a lifeline, a phone call away, that can release some of that frustration or give me different enlightenment. He's a very positive person to have on your side, so to speak, and he always looks for the good and the positive rather than negative," Yablin said. "There's always going to be bumps in the road. And it's how you deal with those bumps, and who can help you deal with the bumps, and John's always good about it."
In his six months of working with Yablin, Jones said he has seen a positive difference in his client.
"He's got a little bit more insight to some of the concerns that he first came to us with. He's more vocal, I think. He has to really work to express himself, so I've seen some positive changes," Jones said. "He's on a path to being better, as we all should be."
Moving Project HOPE to generate collaboration between other Catholic Charities' services has been done once before. O'Herron said Project HOPE relocated to Rich Street to work more closely with the mental health services, like psychiatric therapy, through the Msgr. Carr Institute.
For more information on Project HOPE, including how to make a referral, call 716-362-2388 or visit ccwny.org/projectHOPE.