BLUE ASH, OHIO, November 11, 2021 – Council on Aging (COA) has been named the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Ohio Chapter Region 6 2021 Agency of the Year. The award honors agencies that best exemplify social work values in the field, using best practices to make positive change in their communities.
NASW Ohio is the largest professional organization for social workers in the state of Ohio and is dedicated to enhancing the lives of Ohio social workers and the communities they serve.
Licensed social workers make up approximately one-third of COA’s workforce. During the pandemic, COA’s these social workers and other staff served as a lifeline for their clients, helping to ensure their independence, health and safety at a critical time.
COA’s nomination focused on how its team took early action at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure older adults and those with disabilities in its service area were supported.
“I am incredibly proud of how the entire COA team – which includes 120 licensed social workers – pivoted quickly to identify needs that would arise from the pandemic and then worked tirelessly to address those needs,” said Council on Aging CEO, Suzanne Burke. “I am honored that Council on Aging is being recognized by the leading advocacy network for social workers in our state. The credit for this award rests squarely on the shoulders of our staff.”
COA recognized earlier than most that the novel Coronavirus had the potential to become a major threat to older adults in the U.S. – and locally. CEO Burke activated the agency’s Continuity of Operations Plan in January 2020, allowing COA to quickly adjust resources to meet needs that could arise because of the pandemic.
No other group has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic more than older adults. Though they make up only 23 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state, Ohioans age 60+ account for 65 percent of hospitalizations and 93 percent of deaths due to the virus. Nationwide, eight in 10 COVID-19 related deaths have been among people age 65 and older.
Through proactive leadership, advocacy and coalition building, COA secured the resources needed to meet the needs of older adults during the pandemic, steps ahead of other organizations.
This advocacy led to funding that enabled COA to provide nearly 10,000 boxes of essential personal care supplies to COA clients and community members; 171,300 masks to residents of senior apartment buildings, COA clients, and low-income older adults in COA’s service area; more than 365,000 emergency and comfort meals for at-risk older adults; PPE for COA staff; and more than 30,000 PPE items to senior apartment buildings and COA’s service provider network.
COA also became an important partner for local hospitals and the regional healthcare system in diverting older adults from nursing facilities where cases and deaths due to COVID-19 were rising rapidly. COA’s leadership team was able to quickly adapt programs so older adults discharging from hospitals could receive care at home, instead of going to a nursing facility for rehabilitation. This effort continues and has kept more than 2,600 area older adults out of nursing homes during the pandemic.
One of the most unique and impactful programs to come out of the pandemic is COA’s comfort meal program. Through this program, COA partnered with area restaurants to provide meals to older adults who were isolated in low-income senior apartment buildings. The program not only helped address the isolation and monotony felt by many older adults during the pandemic, but it also helped support the local restaurant industry at a time when many were accumulating devastating losses.
COA has been a leader in helping area older adults get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Since they first became eligible for vaccination, COA has been helping older adults navigate a system that was not built with their needs in mind. COA has served as a local resource, not just for older adults who needed help getting vaccinated, but also for local public health departments and health care providers that need to connect with older adults regarding the vaccination process and opportunities.
“We recognize that for older adults especially, the pandemic is not over. Most of us are continuing to feel its impact in one way or another,” Burke said. “That’s why we continue to advocate for and work to meet the needs of vulnerable older adults and those with disabilities in our area.”
Region 6 of NASW Ohio encompasses Adams, Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Lawrence, Pike, Scioto and Warren counties in southwest Ohio. As a regional Agency of the Year winner, COA is now in the running for NASW Ohio’s Agency of the Year award. Statewide winners are voted on by NASW Ohio’s Board of Directors and will be announced in January 2022.
About Council on Aging
Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (COA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing quality of life for older adults, people with disabilities, their families and caregivers. COA promotes choice, independence, dignity and well-being through a range of services that help people remain independent for as long as possible.
COA is a state-designated Area Agency on Aging serving Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties. One call to COA links people to the wide variety of agencies, information and programs that serve older adults and people with disabilities.
4601 Malsbary Road, Blue Ash, OH 45242 | 513-721-1025 | 800-252-0155 | www.help4seniors.org