10 Years of SOAR!

Plus, success stories from Florida and DC!
Plus, success stories from Florida and DC!

10 Years of SOAR!

The SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance (TA) Center has wrapped up its 10th year of service! We are so grateful to you, our SOAR community, for your tireless efforts to share SOAR with applicants, partners, collaborators, and funders. To celebrate the close of our 10th year, we are sharing some of the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center's accomplishments over the past 5 years as our contract comes to an end. In the last 5 years (September 2014 to September 2019), the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center has:
  • Provided comprehensive feedback on 13,020 SOAR Online Course practice case packets
  • Conducted 22 SOAR Leadership Academies and trained 585 new SOAR Leads
  • Helped Local Leads facilitate 176 SOAR Online Course Review Sessions for 2,761 practitioners
  • Held 35 webinars with 11,014 participants
  • Hosted 414 virtual TA events and conducted 216 on-site TA events
  • Written 14 issue briefs and created 19 SOAR infographics
  • Reviewed 468 redacted Medical Summary Reports (MSRs) for SOAR providers
  • Expanded our SOAR network to include 31,238 stakeholders
View more of SAMHSA SOAR's accomplishments in the 5 Years of SOAR infographic. We look forward to SOARing with you in Fiscal Year 2020!
National Recovery Month 2019 30th Anniversary

September is Recovery Month: Let's SOAR!

Every September, the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center honors National Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate people who recover. The theme of this year's Recovery Month, sponsored by SAMHSA, is Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger. The 2019 theme emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks across the country to support the many paths to recovery.
Income stability through disability benefits and employment is one step on the path to recovery and a critical part of comprehensive, person-centered, integrated care. Community collaborations around income, housing, and healthcare, as well as the strong networks of SOAR State and Local Leads, are excellent examples of how SOAR supports recovery.
Celebrate Recovery Month with the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center by connecting with your SOAR State or Local Lead, reaching out to a new partner using a SOAR Community Collaboration tool, or sharing the SOAR and the Story of Russell Recovery Month video with a colleague to engage them in the SAMHSA SOAR model!

Sharing Our Successes

Persistence Leads to SOAR Success in DC

Johnna Carey from the DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project at University Legal Services (JPAP) in Washington, DC wrote in to share this incredible success story!
Tanya* had experienced homelessness and incarcerations for much of her adult life. She came to JPAP shortly after her release from jail. She had already applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on her own. JPAP immediately helped Tanya apply for and successfully obtain Interim Disability Assistance, available from the DC Department of Human Services. JPAP then began the SOAR process—requesting all of Tanya's prior medical records to write a Medical Summary Report. JPAP liaised with Tanya's medical providers and the disability claims examiner while maintaining regular contact with her, which proved to be a challenge. JPAP successfully submitted all of Tanya's records and a physician-signed MSR to her claims examiner and took Tanya to a Social Security Administration-ordered Consultative Exam.
In the time JPAP has known Tanya, she has been attacked, robbed, and had all of her belongings stolen multiple times. She has been hospitalized several times for a variety of physical health issues caused by AIDS and her other health conditions. She had switched case managers at different agencies she had worked with on four or five occasions because she has great difficulty trusting and developing relationships due to past trauma. Nonetheless, Tanya stuck with JPAP throughout the entire application process and kept positive relationships with the JPAP team members.
Tanya was approved for SSI! Securing SSI for Tanya will absolutely change her life. It means that she will no longer have to worry about homelessness, making her much less vulnerable and much less likely to be incarcerated. For the first time in her life, Tanya will have a steady income.
What a beautiful success story, Johnna! When asked what words of wisdom Johnna would pass on to other SOAR practitioners, Johnna had one—persist.

Father Helps Son to SOAR in Florida

Samantha Roland from South County Mental Health Center, Inc. in Delray Beach, Florida wrote to the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center to share an incredible SOAR success.
The father of this applicant, Steve*, was referred to me by the supervisor of Case Management. Steve had been experiencing homelessness for close to 6 years and desperately needed help. We worked with Steve to help him in obtaining SSI. In developing his disability application, the co-signed MSR was instrumental in describing Steve's condition and the severity of his illness. After being approved, Steve's father wrote us a touching thank you letter, which is excerpted below:
"Steve experienced many challenges in his early life. He spent the first three months of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit. He was a very happy youngster. He was diagnosed with child behavioral issues, but we pressed on. 
He entered the military at the age of 19. He served out his contract and received an honorable discharge. It was around this time that I started noticing some behavioral issues with Steve. He began to become withdrawn, and he became very isolated. His first crisis episode occurred at his place of employment. By the end of that day, he was incarcerated and a day later admitted into a behavioral health treatment center. Over the past decade he had experienced homelessness, encounters with law enforcement, and he wasn't able to work. While he was experiencing homelessness, he refused help; Steve thought he was just having bad luck. He couldn't understand why people didn't understand him.
After a few cold winters, Steve reached out to me for help. He committed to making his recovery work. He was tired of living on the street with no shelter, food, or water. At that point, I reached out to South County Hospital. Nothing happened overnight; we knew this would be a marathon and not a sprint. We were looking for a long-term solution, not just a quick fix. The team at South County interviewed Steve and then made recommendations, got us help with medication, and assigned him a case manager. The team referred us to Samantha. She helped with getting his disability application filed and helped navigate us throughout the whole process. That was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.
Now Steve receives the benefits he needs and has had help filling out resumes for work. He has secured a place to live. He eats healthy meals every day. He sleeps in a bed at night and takes showers every day. These things may sound like no brainers unless you have a disability that makes almost every part of your life more challenging. This is a lifelong process; we are blessed to have the team at South County in our corner."
What an inspiring success story, Samantha! Thank you for sharing this success!
Submit Your SOAR Success!
*Sharing Our Successes stories have been edited for brevity and clarity. All client names have been changed to protect anonymity.


Medical Summary Report Summer Writing Camp

On August 28, 2019, the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center hosted the webinar Medical Summary Report Summer Writing Camp. In this webinar, presenters described how the MSR is a critical component of the SOAR model and an effective tool in assistance for Social Security disability benefits. The materials from this webinar are now available for download.

SOARing Over Lunch Conference Calls

October 8, 2019; 1:00 p.m. ET 
The next SOARing Over Lunch Conference Call will take place October 8, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. ET! The SAMHSA SOAR TA Center hosts this series of informal monthly calls designed to help support SOAR efforts across the country. Participants can join to ask about any SOAR-related question they may have. 
Add SOARing Over Lunch to Your Calendar!

Federal Updates

Social Security Accelerates Decisions for People with Serious Disabilities

Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, announced four new Compassionate Allowances conditions: CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder, Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, Primary Peritoneal Cancer, and Richter Syndrome. Compassionate Allowances is a program to quickly identify severe diseases and medical conditions that meet Social Security's standards for disability benefits. The Compassionate Allowances program identifies claims where the applicant's condition or disease clearly meets Social Security's statutory standard for disability. Due to the severe nature of many of these conditions, these claims are often allowed based on medical confirmation of the diagnosis alone. The list has grown to a total of 237 conditions, including certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.

Prepare for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October 2019

Reflecting a commitment to a robust and competitive American labor force, the 2019 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme is "The Right Talent, Right Now." Observed each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. The official 2019 NDEAM poster is available for download or to order.
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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance (TA) Center is sponsored by SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Disclaimer: The SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance Center is sending this eNews with support from SAMHSA, HHS. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of HHS or SAMHSA.