The author has previously indicated that one of the most profound challenges of creating a drug treatment track in a social service agency designed to work with seniors or a senior track within a drug treatment program is that of importing existing service and treatment models from one type of agency into the other. The author’s clinical practice experiences have afforded the insight of recognizing that substance users over the age of 50 have a wide variety of unique motivations, habits, and needs when compared with younger age cohorts, an observation that is substantiated by the pertinent, agreeing, but somewhat limited scope of available scholarly literature and research on this topic. At the same time, however, neither a drug treatment agency nor a senior service center should overlook this population or expect the other to provide services to this underserved group. Instead, the best practices of each type of agency and service paradigm should be shared among the clinicians and managers of both agencies in order to enhance services at each site.
While it would be ideal to implement the project proposed here on a large scale, the author’s initial suggestion and plan is to implement the proposal locally, between his own agency (a senior service center) and another agency in Albany. The lessons that the author takes from that experience will prepare him to offer a model for best practices sharing that can be replicated in other jurisdictions.
The target population includes all clinical and management-level staff members at the two agencies in question: one is a senior service center and the other is a drug treatment program. Both agencies have expressed interest in providing services to the population of drug users over the age of 50; however, neither has been able to develop an operational plan for doing so, as each recognizes that it lacks the knowledge and skill competencies of the other and understands that in many senses, this is completely new territory, even in an area that receives a great deal of attention, organization, and resources devoted to younger people with similar addiction issues. The proposal, then, involves the development of a workshop series called “Sharing Best Practices." The series for members of these two related fields and will occur once each month for a period of 12 months. Each agency will be responsible for six sessions, in which clinical staff and managers will prepare presentations in the format(s) of their choosing; the goal of each session will be to position each presenter or group of presenters as subject matter experts in their area of clinical specialty, and to entrust them with the responsibility of training the staff of the other agency in the best practices that they have found useful in working with the target population. In short, by meeting on a regular basis and sharing the unique concerns, both professional areas will develop in unison with a more common goal and idea for implementing changes and new ideas.
There are two possible outcomes of the Sharing Best Practices Workshop Series over the course and then following the 12-month program. The first outcome is that each agency’s staff members will walk away with new information, knowledge, and skills that will prepare them to embark upon program development projects within their own agency that are intended to serve the identified population of clients. As each agency has articulated an interest in serving the senior drug using population, it is this outcome which is the most likely and is of course, not only expected but anticipated. The second possible outcome is that the agencies decide to collaborate in the development of a program to serve the target population in a joint agreement and dual delivery project. While this scenario may be less likely than the first, it may be proposed as a possibility if the workshop series is successful.
The participants who are expected to be involved in the Sharing Best Practices Workshop series include all clinical staff who are responsible for the delivery of services to clients at their respective agencies. In addition, clinical department managers will be involved in the workshop series. My role would be to organize the logistics of the series, ranging from establishing dates for meetings, securing a location, ensuring that any necessary media (i.e: computers, projectors, DVDs, etc.) are available, providing summaries of each workshop to all participants, and fostering communication among the participants between sessions. I would also be responsible for overseeing and ensuring the success of the project. I would meet once each month with the designated manager liaison at each agency to check in and evaluate their opinions about the series so that any necessary changes can be made. These designated manager liaisons would be responsible for assigning staff members to presentations and determining presentation content.
Strategies and Tactics
Using Lewin’s (1951) force field analysis, the author has evaluated the supportive and opposing forces that may influence the successful implementation of the proposed workshop series. Fortunately, the driving forces are deemed to be extremely strong. Both the managers and the clinicians at each agency have expressed their interest in developing programs for the target population, and both parties have recognized that they each need to improve certain clinical competencies before they will be able to do so effectively. The two agencies in question have a positive and successful history of working together. Finally, the cost of the project is deemed to be minimal, if it costs anything at all. The author anticipates being able to use the physical space and resources of each agency for the sessions and the presenters are also participants; there are no excessive expenses for either agency.