ADA turns 30: Abilities in Abundance

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David L. Casey (Vice President for Workforce Strategies & Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health) kicks off this episode with some remarkably personal stories about his family and military history, both of which fuel David’s commitment to the Abilities in Abundance program. 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is more important now than ever before. Recent national unemployment rates for individuals with disabilities is more than double that of abled people, so we thought it was a perfect opportunity to highlight ways people with untapped talents can thrive — even in challenging times like these.

We also connected Duane Rohr, an advisor in CVS Health’s Workforce Initiatives department and Renee Smith, a graduate of the Abilities in Abundance program and colleague at one of our CVS Pharmacy locations in Baltimore, Maryland. 

A very special thanks to Dana, Stacey Butler, The Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services and the local Workforce & Technology Center. Thank you for the wonderful and inspiring work that you do.

Image credit: ADA National Network (adata.org)

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At the heart of health

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We are working on the frontlines, supporting health care systems and delivering care to patients in communities across America.

Delivering frontline care

We are partnering with federal and local governments to ensure more people have access to testing and immunizations, bringing testing to over 1,000 communities. We have increased telemedicine visits by 600% and prescription deliveries by 1000% since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. And Aetna is supported thousands of our most vulnerable members, helping them find necessary health resources and ensuring their access to care.

Supporting hospitals

Together, we are serving patients with complicated illnesses and transitioning eligible IV therapy patients to home-based care, lowering the risk of exposure, and keeping more hospital beds open.

Serving communities

Together, we are putting our heart to work in communities across America, delivering medications to temporary medical facilities and making investments to support key priorities, including addressing food insecurity among vulnerable populations, personal protective equipment and mental health support for front-line workers and investments in community resilience funds.

CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo joined the hosts of ABC’s Good Morning America to discuss our expanded COVID-19 testing capabilities, the strength of our supply chain, and the company’s decision to return more than $43 million received through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund.

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Supporting our frontline workers during COVID-19

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During the COVID-19 pandemic our colleagues are on the front lines. They’re working in our CVS Pharmacy locations, call centers, warehouses and mail facilities. They’re caring for patients one-on-one in their homes and long-term care facilities.

To support them, tens of thousands of CVS Health employees are working behind the scenes to help them focus on serving our patients, members and colleagues. 

“Our purpose of helping people on their path to better health has never been more obvious than during this pandemic,” said Colleen McIntosh, senior vice president, Corporate Secretary and Chief Governance Officer.

Colleen’s team provides licensing support for CVS Health. They’re working through the pandemic to make sure “we can turn the lights on” in our stores.

“We are going to come out of this as a stronger, more collaborative, empathetic organization.” — Katie Long, Senior Director of Plan Sponsor Services at CVS Health
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Eileen Cook, a senior director in Learning and Development, works with nearly 500 colleagues spread out across the country. They’re remaining focused on orientation, onboarding and training — especially important as CVS Health is hiring 50,000 people in response to COVID-19.

In Plan Sponsor Services, Senior Director Katie Long oversees 300 colleagues. Some now are teleworking. Others are in the office working through social-distancing guidelines.

Despite the challenges, she remains positive.

“We are going to come out of this as a stronger, more collaborative, empathetic organization,” Katie says.

A CVS pharmacist prepares prescriptions while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
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Quarantined seniors face unseen dangers

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With an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that adults 60 and older "stay at home as much as possible." But, studies show that isolation and loneliness can cause seniors physical and mental harm. In fact, it can be more harmful to a person’s well-being than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Why loneliness is lethal

The first step in finding solutions is to understand that loneliness and social isolation are related, but different problems, says Dr. Christopher Lim, M.D., Senior Clinical Advisor, Aetna Medicare. Isolation is objective and can be measured by factors like the size of a person’s social network. In contrast: Loneliness is a subjective and personal feeling. Both are common among older adults.

A 2020 study found that nearly a quarter of Americans aged 65 and older are socially isolated, and some 43% of adults aged 60 or older report feeling lonely. Add on the isolation felt with the pandemic, and these people face increased risk for heart attack, stroke, or even reduced antiviral protections that are so important right now.

“Loneliness is not a normal state of being for a human,” says Lim. “Biologically, we depend on others to survive in the world.”

Making connections

Fortunately, there are ways we can all help older adults stay connected while respecting social distancing:

  • Resources For Living consultants call at-risk seniors identified by the Social Isolation Index to offer customized local solutions, such as food delivery.

  • SilverSneakers, now offers members age-appropriate online video workouts from home.

  • Papa, Inc. program connects college students and seniors through “Assistance from a Distance” to encourage positive thinking, help with ordering groceries and medicines and explaining telehealth tools.

  • Through an Aetna Foundation grant, the Meals on Wheels program is developing a training curriculum to teach seniors how to use technology to make online connections.

Dr. Robert Mirsky, Chief Medical Officer, Aetna, talking with an older woman outdoors.
Dr. Robert Mirsky, Chief Medical Officer of Aetna.

“We are continuing to look holistically at our social connectedness offerings to build out a variety of approaches to identify and support our members who are lonely or isolated,” says Dr. Robert Mirsky, Chief Medical Officer for Aetna Medicare.

You can help, too. Consider adding your neighbor’s shopping list to your own. Call your elderly relatives to remind them they aren’t alone. Schedule a virtual visit between your children and parents. The connections you make during this time could be lifesaving.

Help older adults stay connected

  • Make a plan how to social distance and sanitize their home. Update phone numbers for pharmacy and other home deliveries.

  • Schedule regular phone calls and video chats.

  • Organize a virtual game night using online board games or set up identical game boards and use a speaker phone. 

  • Create a virtual book club or have grandparents read bedtime stories.

  • Host a long-distance dinner party with meal delivery and phone or video conversation.

A photo of an older woman gazing out of a window with natural filtered light.
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Supporting causes that matter to our employees

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When Erin Wright’s daughter was born 15 weeks premature, she weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces and had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 16 weeks.

When leaving the hospital to bring their daughter home for the first time, Erin’s husband turned to her and said, “We are going to give back to this place because this place gave us our daughter.”

That’s exactly what Erin and her husband have done thanks in part to the CVS Health Foundation Volunteer Challenge Grant Program. The program helps colleagues like Erin, a healthcare category manager, provide even more support to the causes that matter to them.

When leaving the hospital to bring their daughter home for the first time, Erin’s husband turned to her and said, “We are going to give back to this place because this place gave us our daughter.”
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Grants, which range from $500 to $5,000, are awarded directly to the organization on the colleague’s behalf.

“We hear all the time from the organizations that receive challenge grants that they really rely on those funds,” says Joanne Dwyer, CVS Health Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability. “They're critical in helping them advance their mission.”

Along with Erin, watch the video to see how the program is supporting colleagues like CVS Pharmacy intern Willie Dunnam. Willie is working with the underserved population in Mobile through a student-run free health clinic, which recently used $1,000 from the program to purchase an AED (automated external defibrillator).

“Everybody has a chance to volunteer,” says Willie. “It shows you what you can do.”

A photo of Erin Wright in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UMass Memorial Health Care.
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From homelessness to health: Our commitment

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A photo of Kevin Duvall in his home.
After caring for his mother and losing his family home, Kevin Duvall faced a decade of homelessness. Today, as a resident of Sequoia Commons, he has security and a future.

Kevin Duvall was homeless. Today, thanks to CVS Health’s commitment to affordable housing, he has a home and a future.
 
After years of homelessness, food insecurity, and even drinking from gutters, 59-year-old Kevin Duvall still feels overwhelmed knowing he can cook his own food, pour a clean glass of water and eat a healthy meal in his own home.

Kevin cared for his mother for years and took a reverse mortgage on their house to make ends meet. When the bank reclaimed his home, and possessions, after her death, Kevin carried two photo albums in a backpack through a decade of homelessness.

Today, he lives at Sequoia Commons — a 66-unit affordable rental community in California’s San Joaquin Valley funded in part by CVS Health and built by Self-Help Enterprises – for residents who face challenges such as homelessness or chronic illness. “It's changed everything to have a place to live,” he says. “I was ready to give up.”

An aerial photo of the Sequoia Commons housing development neighborhood.
CVS Health contributed 20 million dollars towards the 66 low-income units at Sequoia Commons — one of many housing investments across the country. The facility includes on-site resident services such as job training and health and medical services.
A photo of Keli Savage, Sr. Director Investment Strategy, and Chet Uma, CEO Aetna Better Health of CA., visiting Sequoia Commons for the grand opening February 14, 2020.
Keli Savage, Sr. Director Investment Strategy, and Chet Uma, CEO Aetna Better Health of CA., visit Sequoia Commons for the grand opening February 14, 2020.

Investing beyond the pharmacy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 60% of a person’s life expectancy is influenced by everyday activities that take place outside the doctor’s office. These social determinants of health include access to affordable housing, reliable transportation, quality schools and health care.

“Among other things, research shows that a safe, secure home has a positive impact on behavioral health, childhood asthma and birth outcomes.” says Dr. Garth Graham, Vice President of Community Health and Impact at CVS Health. Social determinants of health, he says, can vary not just by zip code, but by destinations as specific as a neighborhood block or bus stop.

CVS Health is committed to reaching beyond its retail pharmacy counters to build healthy communities. “In 2019 we invested $67 million in affordable housing to create over 2,200 affordable homes in six states, including California,” explains Keli Savage, head of Impact Investment Strategy. “In 2020, we have committed an additional $75 million in investments.”

CVS Health is also collaborating with Self-Help and community partners to provide on-site resident services including English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, job training and on-site health and medical services like flu shots, screenings and health clinics.

Kevin understands better than most the inextricable link between affordable housing and the opportunity to live a healthier life. He says his new home enables him to be stable, self-sufficient and to care for his own health challenges as he ages. “I have a place to put my photo albums now,” he says, with pride.

An aerial photo of the Sequoia Commons housing development neighborhood.
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Focusing on solutions for CVS Pharmacy patients

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Saurabh Mistry’s personal motto is “Don’t focus on the obstacles, always focus and devote your energies on the solution.” It’s a mindset that was instilled in Mistry at an early age by his father while growing up in India and one that he tries to pass along to his team every day as a pharmacy manager at a CVS Pharmacy in Texas.

Mistry’s solutions-driven approach to his work is part of what earned him a 2019 Paragon Award, which recognizes the best-of-the-best among CVS Health colleagues who deliver direct care to patients and customers. Now in its 29th year, the Paragon Awards honor colleagues who embody the core values of CVS Health.

Giving back also drives much of Mistry’s work. Whether it’s returning to his home country to help his childhood community, going the extra mile to ensure his pharmacy patients are being prescribed the proper medications or proactively working to save his patients money, Mistry always strives to help others.

Watch above to learn more about the fulfillment Mistry gets from his work and why he’s always aiming to be the best and have the best team in place for his patients.

A photo of Saurabh Mistry behind the pharmacy counter.
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Making communities stronger by volunteering time, talent and resources

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Just one example of how we’re making communities stronger by encouraging employees to volunteer their time, talent and resources to local organizations.
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Working part-time, Maria Martinez does her best to support her two kids, but sometimes it’s not enough to make ends meet. After falling behind on her gas bill, she needed help.

That’s when she attended a “Keep the Power On” utility clinic and connected with a group of CVS Health lawyers working pro bono to help Hartford residents struggling to pay their utility bills — just one example of how we’re making communities stronger by encouraging employees to volunteer their time, talent and resources to local organizations.

“Being a lawyer, you are an advocate, so instead of advocating for the company, I'm now advocating for an individual,” says Jen Corvo, CVS Health counsel. “Pro bono programs like this are great because we are meeting people at something that really does affect their daily life.”

Watch the video to see how we’re reaching out and helping community members like Maria.

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Women’s heart attacks aren’t like men’s

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"I’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle," says Tasya Lacy from Columbus, Ohio, who has been teaching hula-hoop fitness classes for years. Yet, the day before Easter 2016, at age 50, she had a heart attack.

"I was exhausted and felt like I pulled muscle in my back," Tasya, now 54, recalls. "My husband rubbed my shoulders and felt my heart racing. He told me we we're going to the hospital. I didn’t think I needed to.”

Doctors found 99% blockage in Tasya’s main coronary artery, requiring three stents.

It’s common for women to miss signs of a heart attack because they present differently from men. A man is more likely to have chest pains, a woman may experience flu-like symptoms: nausea and vomiting, excessive sweating, exhaustion, or pain in their arm or back.

Listening to your body could be the difference between and life and death. Literally. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease is the No. one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year. Often because they ignored the symptoms. And, 20% of women age 45 or older who have who have a heart attack will have a second heart attack within five years of their first.

CVS Health is the national presenting sponsor of Go Red for Women — the American Heart Association’s heart health movement to end heart disease and stroke in women.

MinuteClinic® offers chronic care management and preventative care all year long, including measuring risk factors for heart disease. “We’ve expanded our available health care services for patients with certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” shares Angela Patterson, Chief Nurse Practitioner, MinuteClinic. “Our providers are able to screen, assess, treat and monitor these conditions, as well as order lab tests, recommend lifestyle changes, prescribe medications and educate patients about their conditions.”

There's one more risk factor exclusive to women: menopause.

"The combination of estrogen and progesterone before menopause seems to provide a protective element against heart disease in women," explains Allan Stewart, MD, Medical Director for HCA East Florida’s Miami-Dade Cardiovascular Surgery Programs. However, once a woman goes through menopause, her risk of heart attack increases significantly.

Tasya was post-menopausal when she had her heart attack. Now she knows a simple truth about her health — when in doubt, always seek medical care.

Get proactive with preventive care

Visit a MinuteClinic to learn your personal health numbers — a starting point for a discussion with your health provider on your risk for heart disease: Total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI).

Visit cvshealth.com/GoRed to learn more.

Nurse in scrubs takes patients blood pressure reading.
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Addressing social isolation among seniors

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With studies showing social isolation can be as damaging to your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, loneliness can be just as dangerous as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

That's why addressing social isolation is a major focus for Aetna’s Medicare business and care managers, who are taking a more holistic view of senior health to help get them on a path to better health.

With studies showing social isolation can be as damaging to your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, loneliness can be just as dangerous as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
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“The most common challenge with our senior patients, honestly, is that so many of them have no one,” says Aetna Field Case Manager Sarah Fischer, RN. “So many of them don’t have families. One lady said to me, ‘I’m the only one left.’"

Watch the video to see how case managers are introducing seniors to benefits such as the SilverSneakers fitness program, community volunteering and other opportunities for social connection.

“We get them involved, get the area office on aging involved. There are senior newspapers, things like that,” says Sarah. “We just bring these benefits to the member and say, ‘Let’s get you involved in something.’”

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