As one of the owners of Senior Directory, every year I have the privilege to travel throughout the United States and meet with my staff and clientele. This past September, I visited Nashville to attend our annual Release Party for the Fall 2019 Edition of the Senior Directory. Nashville happens to be one of my favorite cities in the US, so I usually attend this party every other year.
This year, however, was extra special for me because I met a man named Bob Schricker, who works for Amada Senior Care and is serving on the Board of Directors for a non-profit organization called CommuniServe. This non-profit helps provide veterans with home care services. You see, my grandfather was drafted during WW2 and fought the Nazis as an airplane gunman, so consequently I am very passionate about our veterans and caring for them. Bob and I had an instant connection and what started as a brief introduction led to a 30-minute in-depth conversation about the challenges surrounding veterans in our country.
Bob then suggested that I speak with Kevin Fehr, the Founder of CommuniServe. Unbeknownst to Bob, I had met Kevin several years earlier. At the time, Kevin had just launched his new and now very successful home care company called Amada Senior Care. Excitedly, I reached out Kevin about CommuniServe and he generously agreed to an interview.
Kevin, how and why was CommuniServe started?
The Federal Government has a finite amount of funds allocated for home care services to veterans when they leave the VA hospital. The VA does a great job at getting these seniors approved for services, as well as connecting them with care providers. The problem that emerged is, as I said, they only have a finite amount of resources at their disposal. There is a huge number of veterans that are now of the age where they need the type of home care that a company like Amada Senior Care can provide, however they don't have the resources to pay for it. The Federal Government, while they can award X number of hours of care per week or month, it's typically very underutilized. So, in other words, the veteran is going to need more care than what the government can pay for.
As a result, about two years ago, I started thinking through this as the President & CEO of Amada Senior Care. I was racking my brain thinking there has to be something we can do to augment what the government is doing to help these veterans, which led me to the idea of starting a 501c3.
Kevin, does CommuniServe provide the funding, services or both?
So, what typically happens, is case management with the VA will submit an individual’s documentation to the Federal Government. The Federal Government has a finite amount of dollars and will then approve a certain amount of home care hours per week. For example, they might approve six hours of care a week, but that veteran might need 18 or 20 hours in order to feel safe in the home and have a higher quality of life. So, where CommuniServe comes in is we are going to cover that donut hole and get that veteran the additional care that they need because we act as both the funding source and the caregiver repository to get that client the additional hours. CommuniServe both funds and provides the services.
Kevin, which home-care services does CommuniServe provide?
CommuniServe provides nonmedical home care services. We will help the veterans with personal care needs and basic activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning, and meal preparation. If they have some cognitive impairment or cognitive dissidence with a form of vascular dementia or Alzheimer's, we have skilled caregivers that can help with that too. We can also handle transportation services such as taking the veteran back to the VA hospital for follow up appointments. Everything that falls under the same guidance that Amada Senior Care offers, CommuniServce is modeled after. It is important to note that CommuniService does not handle skilled (medical) services though.
What is your strategy to reach more veterans?
We have a couple of different vehicles to reach the veteran community. Number one, we currently have a board of directors of 11 individuals that are successful businessmen and women in the community. Some are related to health care, some are not. Just about half of our Board of Directors are US veterans. So, we were very selective in how we assembled our board, and they do a lot of promotion and advocacy in their places of business.
Another vehicle are the case managers at the VA hospitals because they are in direct contact with the veterans being discharged and know when it is time for home care. Building relationships with the case managers is a huge goal of ours!
In the future, we are also going to have an online application where people can go when they hear about CommuniServe. Here they can apply to see if they can be awarded home care hours.
Essentially, our job with CommuniServe is not to go out and solicit veterans to apply to our nonprofit. That's not our goal. We currently have more veterans than we can handle. Our job with CommuniServe is to build our industry partners, both in the corporate world and individual donors. That is going to be our most effective strategy to broaden both our reach and ability to care for more veterans.
Kevin, how do you separate CommuniServe from Amada Senior Care?
Usually if you know anything about the nonprofit space, it usually takes about six to eight months to get an approval for the a 501c3 designation. With CommuniServe it happened to be a much longer process, closer to 18 months. That’s because if you stop and think about it, and I applaud the government for this, they are saying: Here is Kevin Fehr, the president and CEO of a for-profit company that serves seniors. Now he wants to start and act as the Chairman of the Board for a nonprofit that does the exact same thing for veterans. They're like, mmm… that sound sounds a little fishy, right?
So, a lot of the friction points came from having to provide government documentation showing that we use exclusive software for CommuniServe. We had to provide them with the documentation that we're going to separate Amada Senior Care and CommuniServe. We had to work through a lot of those pain points. But, you know, we finally got to a place in December of last year when they gave our approval to start raising money to help veterans through CommuniServe. Our non-profit also utilizes approved home care agencies (with Amada Senior Care being one of those) from the VA Hospitals to ensure a broad community approach consistent with the VA Hospital’s standards of care.
Please like and follow CommuniServe on Facebook by searching “CommuniServe”. Donations can be made online at our website www.CommuniServeNashville.org or by calling the office at 615-410-2293. We can also be reached via email at email@example.com
Interview by Alex Milzer with Senior Directory