On November 19th, 2020, America will celebrate the tenth anniversary of National Rural Health Day. In recognition of this milestone, the Administration for Community Living reiterates our commitment to the health and human services provided by the aging and disability networks across all rural communities. The efforts of the networks fulfill the guiding principle that older adults and people with disabilities should be able to fully participate in their communities and enjoy the blessing of health and well-being.
Each unit within ACL supports health and human services through information delivery, providing resources, and conducting research. These services center around ACL’s five pillars: (1) Connecting people to resources; (2) Protecting rights and preventing abuse; (3) Supporting families and caregivers; (4) Strengthening the aging and disability service networks; and (5) Expanding employment opportunities for the people we serve.
A central theme that runs through each of these pillars is that well-being starts in our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities – including rural communities. The goal of full participation by older adults and people with disabilities in rural communities will help every state and our nation become stronger, more diversified, and more successful. ACL supports this goals through a number of policies and programs that we will briefly describe.
The community-based organizations that form the backbone of America’s aging and disability networks operate in rural areas in every state and territory. These social service providers deliver many of the human services that augment and complement health care by addressing the social determinants of health. In conjunction with these community-based organizations, ACL funds and supports the No Wrong Door systems. No Wrong Door is a powerful approach that supports people who need long-term services and supports in order to reside and thrive in the community. To learn more about available services in rural communities and beyond, individuals seeking support and their families can contact ACL’s Eldercare Locator. You will be connected with the Aging and Disability Resource Center or Area Agency on Aging that serves your community.
ACL also funds the Centers for Independent Living (CIL) program, which works collaboratively with the No Wrong Door systems. The CIL program supports a system of urban and rural community based organizations that provide services and supports ensuring that people with disabilities live in their community of choice with the supports they need. The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living supports CILs in rural communities by advancing the rights and responsibilities of people with disabilities in rural America. The Association serves as a center of resources and through leading systems change.
ACL's engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults, which is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, put together a set of suggestions for how older adults – and people of any age – can prevent social isolation and loneliness while staying safe. These resources are particularly useful for people in rural areas, where distance can be a factor impacting social isolation.
Adult Protective Services (APS) are a key provider of intervention and services to those experiencing adult maltreatment or exploitation in rural settings. Unfortunately, most cases of elder abuse go undetected, underreported, and unresolved, which results in injury, financial decimation, and even death. The National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative was created to address the lack of culturally appropriate information and community education materials on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in Indian Country. Resources for Native American programming are available through the National Center on Native American Aging and Older Americans Act, Title VI Program websites.
For 30 years, ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research has funded the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities. The Center conducts research projects that generate new knowledge about the experiences and outcomes of people with disabilities living in rural areas. These grants also include training projects, and knowledge translation and dissemination projects. Related efforts at the University of Montana’s Rural Institute have included projects focused on rural self-employment, the geography of disability, and the ecology of community living outcomes in rural communities.
New data tools are making it possible for rural health advocates to quantify and visualize health equity disparities within their community, which in turn allows them to be better advocates for their people and places. As part of the celebrations leading up to National Rural Health Day, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is hosting a variety of events throughout the week of November 16. Although these events are open to the public, registration is required for some events.
ACL is honored to celebrate National Rural Health Day with HRSA and our fellow Department of Health and Human Services agencies. Together we celebrate the great work of community-based organizations in rural communities. We commend their role in supporting the health and wellbeing of older adults and people with disabilities so that America’s rural communities can continue to thrive.