New grants improve services for elderly Mercer County residents in need

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton recently received two one-year grants, totaling nearly $335,000, from Mercer County to better serve elderly residents who have mental health or substance use disorders.

Collectively, the grants are intended to support housing stability for the county’s seniors and help them more easily apply for disability income.

The first grant, totaling $229,595, enabled Catholic Charities to create the SSI/SSDI Outreach Access and Recovery, or SOAR, program. That initiative aims to increase access to Social Security benefits for seniors with substance use and/or mental health diagnoses who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

Specialized training for complicated paperwork

SOAR case managers are specially trained to effectively complete and submit SSI/SSDI applications on behalf of elderly clients in need. Completing a single application can take hours of case management, including securing proper identification for clients, collecting required documents, completing medical summary reports and accompanying individuals to appointments with doctors to document eligibility.

The SOAR model is an evidence-informed method created by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Programs addressing homelessness are part of SAMSHA’s “Recovery Support Strategic Initiative” to ensure that supportive services are available for people with substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Besides applying for SSI/SSDI on behalf of clients, SOAR case managers keep in contact with clients to provide ongoing case-management services.  For example, many clients need medical care, transportation services, help acquiring identification, accompaniment to the Social Security office, and more.  The SOAR case manager assesses the needs of the client throughout the application process and connects them to needed community resources, while maintaining contact with the Social Security Administration about the status of their application.

Housing stability for at-risk elderly

A second grant for $105,000 enabled Catholic Charities to create Senior Case Management Services, or SCMS.

That staff uses a housing-first model to serve people age 55 or older who are homeless or at risk of homelessness because of substance abuse, mental illness, or both. Case managers work with the staff at the Trenton/Mercer Coordinated Entry and Assessment System (CEASe) Center to increase housing stability by providing psycho-educational resources and referrals to medical, mental health, and/or substance use services.

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