Using a new Web site and a toll-free phone number, Howard County officials this summer will begin providing more information about services for seniors and younger people with disabilities.
Howard is one of two counties in Maryland to receive money from a federal grant for pilot projects to create a streamlined source of information.
"We want to really revolutionize how people get information about services," said Ilene Rosenthal, chief of housing services for the Maryland Department of Aging who is serving as project director for the federal grant. "This will create consistent information and bring it to the public's fingertips."
The county plans to begin a marketing campaign in August to alert people about services available for seniors and those with disabilities.
The Web site, expected to go online later this year, will provide links to applications that can be filed for assistance from federal, state and local programs.
It also will offer information about prescriptions and Medicare, long-term care, in-home services, assisted living, home-delivered meals, home modifications, medical services and financial planning.
"What we hope will happen is that every citizen in Howard will automatically know who to contact to obtain help or information on any service related to the elderly or a person with disabilities in Howard County," Rosenthal said.
County officials also plan to make staff members available at public places such as senior centers and libraries to provide information about resources and to set up appointments for in-home visits.
Howard is expected to receive a total of $242,000 over three years of the $800,000 federal grant. Worcester County will get $172,000. The remainder will be used by the state to help implement the new technology and oversee the counties' pilot projects.
The county's plans for its share of the grant were outlined Tuesday by County Executive James N. Robey (D) during an Older Americans Day celebration at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville. May is national Older Americans Month.
Howard's Office on Aging already has a local information and referral phone line for seniors that provides much of the information. But the new Web site will offer a more centralized, user-friendly source of information, officials said. For example, a caller looking for in-home care will be able to receive a comprehensive list of private companies and public agencies offering that service in Howard and nearby.
The expanded service, being touted by county officials as "a one-stop-shop format," will use existing staff at the county's Office on Aging.
"It's very much in our mind to do everything we can do to retool what we already have," said Phyllis Madachy, administrator for the county Office on Aging.
To launch the Web site, the county is collaborating with the Horizon Foundation's horizonhelp.org, a guide to health and human services maintained by Howard's largest philanthropy.
The number of Howard residents older than 60 is expected to reach 80,674 by 2030, more than triple the number in 2000, according to a report by the Maryland Department Planning that was based on the 2000 Census and updated in November.
"To try this in Howard County will be a value to the state. We have a perfect laboratory," Madachy said.