Web Site Puts Senior Health Information Within a Mouse Click

Sept. 29, 2002
Chico Enterprise-Record
By Larry Mitchell

OROVILLE, Calif. - Seniors and disabled people in Butte County should be able to find useful information on a new Internet Web site sponsored by Passages, a Chico nonprofit organization.

The site, which went online Tuesday, may be most helpful in answering people's questions about what local services are available, said Arlene Phalen-Hostetter, chair of Passages, which runs programs for seniors and the disabled.

Information about health insurance, illnesses, "assistive devices" and many other subjects is available, too, free of charge. The Web site can be found at www.networkofcare.org. Clicking on the Butte County button will bring up local information.

Bruce Bronzan, a former state Assemblyman whose company designed the Web site, spoke about the project at two meetings at Chico State University Tuesday.

Main features of the site include:

* A "resource finder," where people can find out what local services are available in areas such as transportation, caregiver support, meals, living independently and others.

* A library with thousands of articles on issues of interest to seniors and the disabled.

* A news section with stories about the latest developments in the fields of aging and disability.

* A way to search for "assistive devices" that can help people with various handicaps.

* An area where state legislation on aging and the disabled can be found. It enables people to e-mail legislators their opinions on bills.

Phalen-Hostetter said on the Web site people will likely discover services they didn't know were available. For example, she said, she spoke recently to two elderly women who had taken care of their ailing spouses at home over a long period of time, jeopardizing their own health in the process.

Neither knew of the availability of respite care, where substitutes take over for a time, allowing primary caregivers to get a break.

Bronzan, who represented the Fresno area as a Democratic assemblyman from 1982 to 1992, said he carried a lot of bills on health care and aging and got to know problems in the field.

After leaving the Legislature, he came up with the idea of creating a Web site to provide information and coordinate services for the elderly and the disabled.

Sacramento and Alameda counties were interested in the idea and obtained a $2.3 million grant from the state Department of Aging to create the first Web site. Bronzan's consulting firm, Trilogy, designed the site.

Once that was done, he said, it was easy and much less expensive to replicate the site for other areas, he said. About a dozen counties around the state now have Network of Care Web sites, and more are interested.

Phalen-Hostetter said Passages (formerly the Janet Levy Center), contracted with Trilogy to create the local site. She said in coming months, sites will be added for Glenn, Tehama, Colusa and Plumas counties.

More than 80 people attended the two meetings at Chico State, where Bronzan spoke Tuesday. They were mainly employees of agencies that work with the elderly and disabled.