Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol at AgeOptions is celebrating 25 years of empowering consumers throughout the state to prevent, detect and report health care fraud. We work with 15 statewide agencies that help carry out our message through outreach and one-on-one counseling.
The Illinois SMP is headquartered at AgeOptions, the Area Agency on Aging for Suburban Cook County, and we work with several other agencies to provide information about healthcare fraud across Illinois. Our statewide partner agencies include the 12 other Illinois Area Agencies on Aging:
- AgeSmart Community Resources.
- Central Illinois Agency on Aging
Chicago Department of Family and Support Services - Senior Services Area Agency on Aging
- East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging
- Egyptian Area Agency on Aging
- Midland Area Agency on Aging
- Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging
- Southeastern Illinois Agency on Aging
- West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging
- Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging
In Cook County, we also partner with:
- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago - Northwest Suburban Senior Services
- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago - South Suburban Senior Services
- Coalition of Limited Speaking Elderly (CLESE)
White Crane Wellness Center/City of Chicago
During the past few months we were able to sit down with (Phone Call) one of our partners, Michael Svete, from White Crane Wellness Center and interview him about what SMP means to him and what his organization is doing their community.
Q: What is your personal history with SMP?
A: I have been the coordinator of SMP at White Crane for 6 plus years and coordinate volunteers in Chicago. White Crane’s mission is to empower older adults and SMP fits perfectly since older adults are training older adults.
Q: What are the most important things you have done with SMP/the volunteers?
A: Supporting our volunteers (who are an amazing, talented group) who really dedicate themselves to the program from everywhere. Each volunteer comes from a diverse background: some have a faith background, some have seen the damage in their community and want to become advocates, and some volunteers feel for older adults from a community focus.
We always provide support for volunteers to be out in the community. We work with adult day services, outreach, Jesus Enriquez from AgeOptions, and partnered with AgeOptions to spread awareness at fraud fairs.
For example, in May 2020, what was supposed to be an interactive, in-person healthcare fraud awareness event over the course of a month turned into a virtual healthcare fraud awareness week. We were still able to share the message but that was a challenge.
Adult daycare services began sending materials out to older adults, so SMP added materials to also bring awareness the same way.
Q: What is rewarding about this kind of work?
A: Each volunteer LOVES to connect and engage with people! They love how they can present information in a relevant and exciting, engaging way. The volunteers always feel like they are getting new information out to the beneficiaries which is what helps drive them, and the majority of the volunteers have been involved for over six plus years. The volunteers are truly the core of the program and are “professional yet compassionate.” I love the partnership with AgeOptions and all the constant new materials that are created.
Q: What do you see in the future for the SMP program?
A: Tricky question because fraudsters are good at manipulating healthcare and thrive at moments like this (COVID-19 Pandemic). Continuing social media and looking into more outlets to access programs online is going to happen a lot more in the future.
Stories will always stay and are one of the best ways to communicate SMP’s message is through stories. How do the stories impact senior’s dollars? Our country’s dollars? We are the gatekeeper to keeping eyes open within the community.
Q: Why is the SMP program important?
A: The SMP mission is STRONG. We are focused on the mission, but the way the program conducts outreach is EMPOWERING! Older adults connect with other older adults and share with stories and information. The volunteers can best educate other individuals because of how they can relate with each other.
I love directly interacting with volunteers. They are inspiring and are all full of energy, fun, and brightness. They are a diverse group (past ministers, lawyers, etc.) and are all volunteering for different reasons, but they are all compassionate.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: What can we do better to support volunteers? They bring a unique perspective to what the community needs and they are always giving their ideas, guidance, and feedback. Each volunteer offers a unique experience. The SMP program allows volunteers to be flexible. The volunteers do not let challenges stop them but the personal connections are what keeps them engaged.
A specials thanks to Marina Silva, our SMP Volunteer Specialist, for conducting the interview. Marina conducted all the upcoming interviews you will see over the course of the next 9 months.
On behalf of the Illinois SMP Program, I would also like to personally thank Michael and the rest of our partners carrying out the mission of Detect, Protect and Report for the past 25 years.Without the hard work and dedication of our partners would not have nearly the success that we have now.