County Project Offers Hookup to Care Network

Aug. 13, 2001
Sacramento Bee
By Nancy Weaver Teichert

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento County is using the Internet to open up a world of assistance and advice to older or disabled people and their caregivers.

The Network of Care is an innovative Web site that will offer everything from an exhaustive list of services and products to a personalized health file.

Created with a special grant from the California Department of Aging, the pilot program's goal is to hook up people with the help they need to stay as healthy and as independent as possible. "This is by far the most comprehensive and the most helpful Web site of any social service program," said Jim Hunt of Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services. "The opportunities are enormous."

The site was created by Trilogy Integrated Resources with a $2.2 million grant from the state Department of Aging for a 17-month demonstration project in Sacramento and Alameda counties. State and county officials, who hope more counties and states duplicate the Web site, will announce it at a press conference today. The Web site, called the Network of Care, will be available at www.sacramento.networkofcare.org.

An estimated 340,000 people in the two counties have functional impairments and could find the services they need on the Web site, said Bruce Bronzan, president of Trilogy. The site also will be available in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

It's confusing because there are more than 800 agencies and programs that serve the elderly and disabled in Sacramento County, said Bronzan. "This is a system that's very fragmented because it's funded by dozens of federal and state departments," he said. "There's not even an information system that ties all the pieces together."

The searchable Web site will include a resource list of all programs and services available in Sacramento County; a library with articles on healthy aging, medical conditions and caregiving; and a catalog of 18,000 assistive products.

The Web site also will feature news stories about issues affecting older and disabled people. Information on proposed legislation will include links to legislators so readers can easily e-mail an opinion.

Hunt said families will use the Web site to help with the challenges faced in caring for aging parents, caregivers will use the resources to provide better care, and the elderly and disabled can log on for the support they need.

County officials say a unique feature will allow older or disabled people to create a personal file and allow anyone they want to have access. With adult children often scattered across the country, Hunt said, the Web site can help a family join in caregiving duties.

Information about issues such as medications and doctor appointments is available on a secure server, so privacy is protected but family or caregivers can have access and help track care.

"My mom has Alzheimer's. She lives in the desert in New Mexico," said Hunt. His sister lives in Reno and his brother is in Oklahoma, but the family takes turns giving respite care to his stepfather. "When we go there, we can bring the things we need. We know what treatment she's getting, what medication she's supposed to take, how and when. The challenge is getting my stepdad to put a computer in."

Jim Harrison, 78, who will serve on an advisory board for the Web site, said information eventually will be available by telephone at (888) 809-0023 for those who can't use a computer.