Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc.

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

July 2024

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

April 2020 - March 2023

Substance misuse has a unique impact on the health of older adults; it accelerates age-related changes to the brain and the progression of chronic diseases, as well as increases older adults’ risk for falls, fractures, and other emergencies.

These conditions can lead to older adults’ high utilization of costly health care services. Surveys show that nearly 1 million adults over the age of 65 meet the diagnostic criteria for substance misuse. However, few community-based providers are aware of and prepared to address the prevalence of geriatric substance misuse and its interaction with chronic disease management. More than 50% of Lifespan’s clients have four or more chronic health conditions and suffer from depression. One third of its clients experience social isolation, lack a spiritual connection, and are food insecure. In 2020, NYHealth awarded Lifespan of Greater Rochester a grant to pilot a model for treating geriatric addiction that aims to decrease substance misuse and improve health outcomes for older adults. 

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Integrated its harm reduction program for older adults, Geriatric Addictions Program (GAP), with its Community Care Connections (CCC) program, a social work case management and health care coordination program for older adults with complex social and medical needs. The GAP-CCC program supports older adults with complex health issues and substance use disorders.
  • Trained more than 140 social service and clinical providers to identify substance misuse in older adults and support their unique needs.
  • Collaborated with the Center for Evaluation and Applied Research at the New York Academy of Medicine to assess the impact of the GAP-CCC care delivery model. The evaluation showed that clients who participated in GAP-CCC experienced improved mental and physical health, greater likelihood of reduced substance use, and better overall wellbeing.
  • Created client care plans through GAP-CCC, coordinating with case managers, caregivers, social workers, health professionals, and community health workers to support the needs of each client.
  • Provided 42 older adults with holistic support, including chronic disease management education, clinical and social service team coordination, low- and no-cost transportation, and medication reconciliation.
  • Produced a report with the New York Academy of Medicine providing findings from qualitative interviews with New York State-based health system professionals, including payers, policy experts and others. 

The COVID-19 pandemic affected project implementation and deliverables. Lifespan experienced staff turnover and limited capacity, which disrupted older clients’ access to services. At the beginning of the pandemic, Lifespan pivoted to be responsive to immediate public health needs and, as restrictions lifted, began to refocus on the original project. Support during the pandemic included: 

  • 20,000 meal and grocery deliveries made to home-bound older residents living in Rochester’s low-income neighborhoods.
  • Rental assistance and support to 75 older adults to prevent home evictions.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations to almost 6,000 area residents at Lifespan’s on-site vaccination clinics and support with scheduling and transportation to other vaccination sites in the region  

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: Lifespan secured $185,000 from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to expand upon the success of the project. Lifespan also received $2.75 million from the New York State Office for the Aging.