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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Power of Networks—Coalition of Geriatric Services COGS

          With the population of older persons in Howard County growing rapidly we are fortunate that the range of supportive services greatly expanded over the past 25 years.  As a new staff member of the Howard County Office on Aging in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I saw how services for older adults in Howard County were few and far between.  We had no nursing homes until Lorien opened in the late 1970’s.  Home health services were provided by a few Baltimore based home health agencies.  No adult day care. No homemaker services.  No assisted housing although Mrs. Cooper operated a sheltered housing program off Route 108.  The Office on Aging had a few lunch programs for independent adults and opened the first Extended Nutrition Site at Hebron House near the Mt. Hebron Presbyterian Church in 1977.

      In 1991 with the growing development of many new providers of services to the elderly in Howard County, Nate Miller and Kathy Crystal spearheaded an effort to develop a means to have these providers network with each other. Nate worked for Taylor Manor and they were interested in marketing a new program for the elderly.  He thought there would be an interest on the part of other providers to network and agreed to host a breakfast to discuss what form this network could take.  With food as a draw the attendance at this original breakfast meeting was impressive.  The attendees agreed to meet again to form an organization and the breakfast meetings became a fixture.  Fortunately with a number of service providers doing food preparation for their residents the ability to host breakfast meetings could be shared by a number of providers.

      Today COGS has over 250 individuals representing 135 organizations, many based in Howard County.  The COGS model is one that others have looked at to provide a networking opportunity for service providers.  Now COGS is giving back to the community.  Their website talks about,
       The Food on the 15th, a local community service project of Pointers Run Elementary and Clarksville Middle schools. Each month students at these schools bring in non-perishable grocery donations. The students sort, bag, and deliver (with the assistance of their parents) the groceries, free of charge, around the 15th of each month to economically challenged seniors in a senior residential building in Howard County.

Howard County has come a long way in becoming a model for the rest of Maryland in the provision of services to the elderly.  Parting with other providers of services, both public and private, COGS has played an important role in expanding the services available to older persons in Howard County

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