Spencer Blalock, LCSW, BCD, DHA

It is staggering to know that in Mississippi there are between 500,000 and 800,000 caregivers. These are individuals that are often overlooked for their sacrifice and quiet life-saving service. They care for loved ones with no promise of compensation, but based on the goodness of their hearts and a commitment to doing unto others as they would have done unto themselves. In Mississippi alone, each year they contribute over $5 Billion dollars of in-kind care that would have to be provided by institutions, facilities, or other professionals if the caregivers were not in place!

The Mississippi Caregivers Task Force studied the issue of caregiving in Mississippi and completed a report and blueprint for the governor and legislature in late 2014. In 2015, efforts of the Task Force were successful as the Caregiver Act was passed in Mississippi. Another important milestone in 2015 was the creation of the Mississippi Family Caregiver Coalition, a grassroots group whose aim is to engage providers and caregivers in advocacy efforts and pooling of caregiver resources. In 2016, members of the Task Force and Mississippi Family Caregiver Coalition came together to support the creation of the bipartisan Caregiver Resolution, as promoted by the Family Caregiver Platform Project (FCPP). It passed the Mississippi State Legislature unanimously in 2016.

We clearly have a great deal of work to do. We know that each state has different challenges and assets. From a policy standpoint, history demonstrates that three things must converge to make a change: a well-defined problem, an evidence-based solution, and political will of policymakers. When this happens, a policy window opens for a short time. This means that now is the time to frame this issue as a National Crisis in the making and study solutions that will show evidence of substantial impact for supporting caregivers.

I am extremely hopeful for better supports for Mississippi’s and U.S. Caregivers in the coming years.

— Spencer Blalock, LCSW, BCD, DHA, has served on The Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists since 2011. In 2014, Governor Bryant appointed Mr. Blalock as Chair of the Mississippi Caregivers Task Force.

Portrait of Spencer Blalock, LCSW, BCD, DHA
Co-Chair of the Mississippi Family Caregiver Coalition

Photo Credit: University of Mississippi Medical Center (used with permission)

Connie Siskowski

“The job of caregiving youth is to become educated; yet, it is tough to focus in school with the worries of adult-sized family caregiving responsibilities. The American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) supports the efforts of the Family Caregiver Platform Project to educate leaders about the challenges children face as caregivers. The AACY encourages public policies that will support these children through high school graduation and help them become healthy, educated, productive adults.”

Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD
President and Founder
American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY)

A diagram showing how to go from opportunity to policy change through advocacy.

Focus on Community Catalyst

The Family Caregiver Platform Project (FCPP) is pleased to have Community Catalyst as one of our National Partners. Working together we can bring about changes to better serve the needs of family caregivers. Community Catalyst is a consumer advocacy organization working in 40 states. Kate Villers, President and Founder of Community Catalyst, says of their mission, “Each state is different, with a different political environment, so there is no single, cookie-cutter approach.“

Community Catalyst’s state-based partners provide leadership to state and local consumer organizations, policymakers, and foundations. Their experts assist state activists with research information, technical support, and political strategies to ensure consumers have a voice in decisions that affect their health. They share our view that community leadership is essential to transform the health care and social services that caregivers depend on.

Community Catalyst ran a guest editorial about the FCPP in the January 14, 2016 issue of their newsletter, The Dual Agenda. The piece by Victoria Walker, MD, explains how the goals of the FCPP overlap with those of Community Catalyst. You can subscribe to The Dual Agenda newsletter at communitycatalyst.org.

If any issue can unite communities across America it is caregiving. It’s easy and fun to bring caregiver issues to the attention of your local representatives. Many states are organizing now in preparation for caucuses and conventions. Go to Find Your State to discover upcoming events you can attend. You can download model language that can be customized for platform plank or resolution submission in your own state.

We urgently need your help. You can make a difference!

Justice in Aging

“When older people are able to receive the long-term services and supports they need to age at home and in their communities, they not only have better health outcomes, but richer lives. By ensuring older adults remain an integral part of our families and communities, our lives are richer. Family caregivers need both financial and practical support in order to provide the care the older adults in their lives need to age in dignity. This is an issue that touches us all and highlights our interdependence. If we all work together, we can find and enact policy solutions at both the state and federal level.”

Kevin Prindiville
Executive Director
Justice in Aging

Dayne DuVall

“As a caregiver for my father who passed away after thirteen years battling Alzheimer’s disease, I know first-hand the problems and frustrations that families face providing and financing care. Federal and state governments realize this is a growing problem since we all are living longer. It is imperative that family caregivers have a voice in policy decisions so that they know they have access to resources when they need them most.”

“Financial resources are a difficult topic because of budget constraints, but if governments realize that without the contribution of nearly a half trillion dollars annually from unpaid family caregivers they will be forced to find hard dollars to pay for these health care services.”

Dayne DuVall, Chief Operating Officer, National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care