The Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP) was contracted to develop, implement, and support a program that would provide technology devices and internet access to older adults and persons with disabilities who are socially isolated as a result of the pandemic. The program is a collaborative effort with Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA), Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), and the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and targets those who live alone, don’t normally receive in-home services, and who live in rural areas. State agency providers identify clients, customers, and participants who may be at risk of social isolation and would benefit from the program. Participants must be receiving services through one of these provider agencies and the agency must provide the referral to IATP. IATP then processes the needed devices, assembles the technology bundle for each participant, and ships the components. IATP also developed an accessible online referral system, developed webinar trainings for providers within each of the three agencies responsible for submitting the referrals, developed easy to follow instructions and user guides, and provides technical assistance to participants. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) received $1.7 million of CARES ACT funding from the federal Administration for Community Living which was used to contract with IATP to develop and support the program. The program began July 1, 2020 and is funded through September 30, 2021. As of this writing (February 2021), IATP has processed 3,788 referrals and has shipped 2,687 technology bundles. This collaborative effort has helped those in need stay connected with family, friends, and their communities.
IATP has been operating a successful bulk purchasing program for many years for the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services and also provides other specialized contracted AT services that were used as a model for the rapid development and implementation of the CARE Connections program. IATP did start purchasing devices immediately upon executing the contract but quickly found that supply and demand of the needed technology was going to be a major challenge in implementing the project and it continues to be the biggest challenge today which results in longer wait times for participants to receive their technology. The scope of this project and rapid response was only possible because of IATP’s experience and infrastructure. It required a great deal of staff time and effort to implement. Ideally, there would have been more time to develop and launch the program. If a program is just starting to provide similar services it is recommended that you carefully evaluate the scope of the project in relation to your experience and infrastructure.