Program Notes: MSAA’s Helpline and Educational Programs
By Peter Damiri
Vice President of Programs and Services
MSAA’s Helpline Offers More than Information and Resources
With the conclusion of our fiscal year on June 30th, MSAA is proud to announce that we have achieved a number of record-level accomplishments in serving more clients in more places than ever before! Most notably is the significant spike in Helpline calls and assistance throughout the year. With the goal of addressing 10,000 client inquiries for the fiscal year, MSAA’s Client Services staff surpassed this high-level mark by 26 percent, responding to more than 12,500 calls, emails, and online chats.
MSAA’s Helpline allows individuals with MS, care partners, family members, and friends to connect directly with a trained and dedicated social service professional and receive valuable information, guidance, and support. Topics commonly addressed by our specialists include: updates on MS research, treatments, and various symptoms; locating local neurologists and other healthcare professionals; identifying financial-assistance programs; providing resources on health insurance, employment issues, and vocational training; addressing housing and transportation needs; and explaining many of MSAA’s programs and services.
In addition to providing people with a wealth of resources and referrals, the Helpline staff offers a tremendous amount of encouragement, compassion, and empathy to our clients and their families. While our specialists are not medically licensed and cannot provide counseling or therapy, they do offer a very supportive environment where people can have meaningful, non-judgmental conversations about their MS journey. They can feel safe to express their feelings about personal relationships, coping with the uncertainty of the disease, and many other issues affecting everyday life with multiple sclerosis.
As a longtime member of MSAA, Florence D. from West Virginia utilizes the Helpline service for a variety of needs. Most recently she called to learn more about the products included in MSAA’s Equipment Program and was not only able to order a walker, but also a leg lift to help her safely transfer into her daughter’s pick-up truck.
“MSAA is wonderful and I am so grateful to be able to speak to the lovely Client Services Specialist staff when I have questions or concerns about my MS,” noted Florence. “They are all so kind, resourceful, and smart. I just love MSAA to pieces.”
As part of MSAA’s goal to engage with more clients all across the county, the Helpline hours were expanded earlier this year to include Wednesday evenings until 8:00 pm Eastern Time (ET) and the online chat feature was added to additional pages of the mymsaa.org website. To connect with an MSAA Client Services Specialist, please call our toll-free Helpline at (800) 532-7667, ext. 154 between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm ET, Monday through Friday, and until 8:00 pm ET on Wednesdays.
New Series of Educational Programs Launching This Fall
Organized and hosted by MSAA’s Directors of Education and Healthcare Relations, we are excited to announce a wealth of new, in-person educational programs occurring this fall and into 2019. These free dinner or lunch programs provide an excellent opportunity for individuals with MS and their care partners to learn about the latest advances in MS, coping strategies, and healthcare management from many of the country’s leading experts. Additionally, MSAA’s educational programs offer a terrific opportunity for people to connect, share common experiences among their peers, build friendships, and enjoy a nice day out.
Kicking off the fall slate of programs is our new series: “MS Journey: Managing Your MS Through the Years.” While MS is an unpredictable disease, many valuable tools and educational resources are available to help people navigate the MS journey. This series will focus on the following topics: early treatment and diagnosis; treatment considerations and health outcomes; symptom management and quality of life issues; changes in the understanding and treatment of primary-progressive MS; plus cognitive and emotional wellness. In conjunction with MSAA’s upcoming 50th anniversary, our goal is to include one program from this initiative in each of the 50 states.
Also new this fall will be a special focus on, “Women & MS.” Since multiple sclerosis is a disease that tends to affect women during the prime of their lives, many additional health issues should be considered and addressed outside of those directly connected to MS. This patient-education initiative seeks to address the overall health issues facing female MS patients by including the perspective of an OB/GYN specialist alongside an MS neurologist to provide a comprehensive overview of best practices in women’s health. These programs will enable female MS patients to make better decisions relating to their overall health and wellness, and better understand these issues within the context of having MS.
And, back by popular demand, MSAA is pleased to announce that it will expand its series on technology with a new round of presentations on: “What Have I Missed? The Newest Innovative Technologies, Tools & Strategies to Help Better Manage Your MS.” This initiative will educate participants about new ways to manage their MS and improve their overall wellness. Examples of the innovative tools to be presented include cognitive re-training tools, MS patient apps, breakthroughs in the delivery of MS disease-modifying therapies, fitness trackers, virtual MS comprehensive care centers, assistive walking devices, and virtual assistants.
While MSAA is pleased to spotlight these upcoming programs, please know that we are continuously planning new educational topics and initiatives, especially in the area of the African-American and Hispanic MS populations, as well as reaching more clients in rural locations across the United States. We encourage you to visit mymsaa.org/calendar to see the full listing of MSAA’s educational programs and to register to attend one or more of these insightful and informative events. If you have additional questions, please feel free to call MSAA’s Helpline at (800) 532-7667, ext. 154 or email questions to MSquestions@mymsaa.org.