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Welch visits Brattleboro, touts innovative elder care program

BRATTLEBORO—At-large U.S. Rep. Peter Welch moved from table to table. A woman handed him a business card as she pitched her group’s project.

As the lunchtime crowd filled The Works Bakery Café on Main Street, Welch discussed issues with constituents during one of his periodic “Congress in Your Community” visits on Monday.

The Vermont Democrat holds these meetings in communities throughout the state, especially during congressional recess periods.

This day is busy. Welch spends about 10 minutes speaking with one table of people before moving to the next, and the next.

Welch started his visit to Windham County with a roundtable discussion at Melrose Terrace in West Brattleboro. The discussion centered on the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program.

“It’s very exciting,” he said of the program.

SASH is a federally funded, integrated care pilot program. The Brattleboro Housing Authority launched a SASH program in 2011 in cooperation with Burlington-based Cathedral Square.

The program coordinates health care services by building a team of existing community organizations and resources. Vermont has connected health care and housing as one way to help Medicare recipients stay in their homes.

According to Welch, integrating health care with other community support services has saved Medicare money.

Medicare spends about $2,200 less on SASH participants compared to seniors not participating in the program, he said.

But, he added, the collaboration inherent in SASH provides benefits beyond money. Participants are more engaged in their own healthcare management, and support their physical and emotional health.

The continuous conversations between individuals and their SASH services allows for the designing of very specific care regimens, said Welch.

Welch is working on bipartisan legislation to make SASH available to more states and allow states the flexibility to incorporate the program into requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

He described the legislation as the first legislation in recent memory aimed at improving the Affordable Care Act rather than repealing it.

After talking with Brattleboro residents at The Works, Welch also visited Chroma Technologies in Rockingham.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #269 (Wednesday, August 27, 2014). This story appeared on page A4.

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