Foreign entities are not eligible to compete for, or receive, awards made under this announcement. Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement.
Since 1991, the Administration on Aging (AoA) within the U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL) has supported the National Information & Referral Support Center (the Support Center). The Support Center was established to assist the aging network of State Agencies on Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, Tribal organizations, and local aging information and referral/assistance providers enhance the quality and professionalism of their information and assistance systems. Since 2003, the Support Center has expanded its reach by providing technical assistance and training to organizations in the aging and disability networks.
Information and Referral/Assistance (I&R/A) is a vital component of many of the programs supported by the ACL. The Older Americans Act (OAA) funds a range of programs that offer services and opportunities for older adults and their caregivers, especially those at risk of losing their independence. I&R/A has been a core service of the OAA since 1973. The OAA requires State and Area Agencies on Aging to provide for the establishment or maintenance of I&R/A in sufficient numbers to assure that all older persons in the State or within a planning and service area will have access. There are currently over 2400 I&R providers in the aging network. I&R programs provide direct services to older persons through over 11.9 million contacts annually.
Since 2003, Aging and Disability Resource Centers have supported state efforts to develop more efficient, cost-effective, and consumer-responsive systems of providing information and access to long-term services and supports, which often are referred to as “No Wrong Door” (NWD) systems. I&R/A is an important component to the success of these programs. Information and referral is a core service for the over 400 Centers for Independent Living in the United States.
The Support Center provides training, technical assistance, product development and consultation to assist aging and disability I&R systems strengthen their programs. Since inception the Support Center has played a critical and important role in the evolution and advancement of aging and disability I&R including annual and ongoing training opportunities. A key effort was the expansion of specialized I&R/A certifications. In 2002, the Support Center worked with the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) to develop the Certification for I&R Specialists in Aging CIRS-A) certification. In 2015, the Support Center worked with AIRS to introduce the Certification for I&R Specialists in Aging and Disability (CIRS –A/D) to recognize the evolution of the field. In January 2019, AIRS announced new names for the credentials that comprise its certification program. The Certified Information & Referral Specialist for Aging/Disabilities (CIRS-A/D), is now the Community Resource Specialist - Aging/Disabilities (CRS-A/D). The Support Center currently offers CRS-A/D training and information to organizations and individuals interested in credentialing.
Trends continue to make I&R/A increasingly important to older persons, people with disabilities and their families. Today, individuals face myriad choices and decisions about health, housing, transportation, caregiving, and other long-term services and supports (LTSS). Navigating these various systems can be very frustrating and confusing for consumers. The current COVID pandemic has further highlighted the critical need for timely, informed, and accurate information and assistance. I&R/A programs also need to address the increasingly more diverse aging population with the growing number of racial/ethnic elders.
In addition to the trends highlighted above, advances in technology, such as smartphones, online chat, web conferencing, and virtual assistant technologies such as Alexa, have expanded the ways individuals expect to access and receive information. I&R/A is now far more than just a telephone interaction. Aging and disability programs need to ensure they invest in and utilize innovative technologies, such as APIs, to improve the access and efficiency of their I&R/A services and programs.
To assist aging and disability I&R programs respond to these current and emerging issues, ACL will fund one new Cooperative Agreement to continue the Support Center as a resource for aging and disability I&R/A programs. The Support Center will continue to serve as a central source of information, resources, technical assistance and training to aging and disability I&R/A programs. The Support Center will provide technical assistance, training and information to aging and disability I&R programs to enhance their effectiveness to better serve older adults, persons with disabilities and their families.
Key functions of the Center
The applicant should propose a strategy for meeting the training and technical assistance aging and disability I&R/A. Activities should include:
Examining the I&R/A Field - The Support Center will examine and document the current state of aging and disability I&R/A programs and systems to determine priorities for training and technical assistance.
Coordinating a National Symposium – The Support Center will coordinate one national in-person training event in each project year to focus on foundational and trending issues in aging, disability, and I&R/A. Event can be held in conjunction with another training event such as the annual AIRS I&R Training and Education Conference.
Conducting at National/Regional Conferences – The Support Center should look for opportunities to conduct trainings at national and regional conferences.
Conducting Virtual Trainings – The Support Center should utilize a variety of modalities (e.g. online course, webinars, podcasts) to support web-based learning solutions to design and deliver cost-effective training courses that expand the knowledge base of I&R/A professionals working in the aging and disability networks.
Supporting Community Resource Specialist - Aging/Disabilities Certification – The Support Center will continue to be a source of training and information for professionals interested in CRS-A/D Certification.
Providing Technical Assistance and Consultation Services - The Support Center must develop a technical assistance strategy to provide ongoing technical assistance to aging and disability networks on I&R/A and other related issues.
Maintaining a Website – The Support Center should maintain a state-of-the art Support Center website, which serves as a comprehensive source of information for aging and disability I&R/A programs.
Promoting Best Practices - The Support Center will collect and promote models and best practices in I&R/A and make them available on the Support Center Web site. Emphasis should be placed on how aging and disability I&R/A programs can:
Effectively use technology to better link state and local resources as well as better serve older adults, persons with disabilities, and their caregivers;
Better prepare I&R/A programs in emergency preparedness situation such as (COVID 19) and natural disasters; and
Develop and enhance their programs to better ensure racial/ethnic equity in accessing aging and disability programs and services.
Collaborating and Partnering: The Support Center will represent the interests of aging and disability I&R/A with other national entities including national organizations and federal agencies representing older adults, individuals with disabilities and diverse populations. Specifically, the Support Center should:
Work with AIRS on activities of mutual interest to enhance the professionalism of aging and disability I&R/A systems;
Collaborate with relevant ACL resources center and other ACL grantees to advance and support the advancement of I&R/A; and
Work with the Eldercare Locator by serving on the Eldercare Locator Advisory Committee, promoting the service, and providing training as needed to service staff.
Advisory Committee and Discussion Group
The Support Center will convene an Advisory Committee, in consultation with ACL, to provide insight and guidance on the direction of the center.
Committee should include representatives from State and Area Agencies on Aging, ADRCs, Centers for Independent Living and other organizations as appropriate to enhance the quality of I&R/A systems, service delivery and professionalism of personnel.