The COVID-19 crisis has tested the resilience of social services in many parts of our country. At the same time, it should not be a surprise that across the nation we have come together to support each other and find creative solutions when needs arise.
I learned early in my career that the people best prepared to respond to a crisis are those who already know what resources and services are available on the ground. This lesson speaks to a simple principle that has guided our nation’s response to this pandemic: solutions need to be federally supported, state managed, and locally implemented.
I witnessed this principle in action recently when a colleague from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reached out to tell me about two individuals in New Jersey who needed rides to their weekly dialysis treatments. Both had tested positive for COVID-19 and their family members, who were also infected with the virus, were unable to provide transportation.
I contacted the New Jersey Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (NJVOAD), and they looped in the New Jersey State Police. The State Police play a key role in statewide emergency management. They used their knowledge of local resources to help secure safe rides for both individuals.
Execution of the support happened at the local level, while management and support was provided by state and federal agencies. Everyone worked with passion and professionalism to resolve this critical problem in a quick, decisive manner. What could have been a life threatening transportation challenge became an example of how human services and committed partners can make a difference in people’s lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the Department of Health and Human Services, we often hear the mantra, “locally supported, state managed, and locally executed.” This story certainly demonstrates words can be matched by actions.
Visit ACL's COVID-19 webpage for more information and resources for older adults, people with disabilities, caregivers, and community-based organizations serving these individuals.