Diakon Community Services staff member receives statewide award

Pottsville, Pa. (Friday May 27, 2016)

A Diakon Community Services staff member recently received the “Secretary’s Award,” one of six Bravo awards presented annually by the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to recognize the work and leadership of local APPRISE coordinators.

Sue Johns, APPRISE coordinator for the program in Schuylkill County, received the award for her work that was exemplary in four key areas: performance, client-service, innovation and collaboration, according to the department. Through its coordinators and volunteer network, APPRISE provides free counseling services to help older adults understand their Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid benefits.

Having begun her association with APPRISE as a TeleCenter volunteer in 2004, Johns was soon hired as a part-time APPRISE assistant and, several years later, moved to full-time status while also serving as volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels. In 2013, she moved into full oversight of TeleCenter operations and, two years later, was named the county’s APPRISE coordinator. 

“Sue has implemented a variety of strategies to improve program performance including regularly scheduled volunteer meetings, creating new partnerships, expanding the number of annual open-enrollment events and locations, recruiting additional volunteers and developing new roles for volunteers,” says Karen Wood, executive director of Diakon Community Services, which manages the APPRISE program under contract with the Schuylkill County Office of Senior Services, with funding from the Department of Aging. 

“In addition, Sue was successful in working with TeleCenter volunteers to develop procedures and skills for doing one-on-one counseling about Medicare and related topics,” Wood says. “These strategies have resulted in increased client contacts by 170%. Sue has met or exceeded other targets during this same time by attending Farmer’s Market distribution events, working closely with state and Social Security departments, conducting trainings with volunteers, and teaching them to complete applications. Further, she has reached out to apartment and housing unit managers and clients of various senior programs by providing educational materials, presentations, and flyers.”

Johns met or exceeded all performance measures for three consecutive years, 2013, 2014 and 2015, Wood adds. “Sue works well with her volunteers, supporting their efforts and utilizing their individual skills to best serve both clients and volunteers. She gives thoughtful consideration to the assigning of clients to volunteers based on the client’s need and the volunteer’s skills. Sue’s down-to-earth nature allows clients to feel comfortable and at ease with her. In fact, she created a ‘wall of fame’ to recognize volunteers,” she adds.

Perhaps a key reason for her success, Wood adds, is John’s ability “to explain Medicare and Medicaid in easy-to-understand terms that help clients to make informed decisions about their coverage options. She has taken numerous innovative steps to educate consumers about APPRISE services, including the development of partnerships with pharmacies, through which flyers about APPRISE were placed in prescription bags. In one case, her ability to develop relationships in the community resulted in gaining assistance for a women who might otherwise have ended up homeless.” 

For further information, please contact:
William Swanger, M.A., APR
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries
(717) 795-0308
E-mail: swangerb@diakon.org