Cooperative Care in Wautoma, Wisconsin
Faced with the need to revamp its delivery system for home health care services for its elderly and disabled public pay clients, leaders of Waushara County’s Human Services Agency researched the worker co-op model, consulted a number of experts, involved community leaders and engaged upon a bold experiment. What resulted was Cooperative Care, whose 70 members were already experienced providers of services under the old system, but now worked under a contract with the county to deliver the services. The big difference was that these caregivers were no longer independent providers, they were now member/owners of a cooperative business.
As members of the cooperative they now had a role in decision making, opportunities for professional interaction with fellow members, a benefits package, workers compensation coverage, patronage refunds and a living wage. Initially, the contract with the county made up 90% of the co-op’s business, which provided them with time to develop a base among private pay clients, respite care, hospice care and companion care. It should be noted that there were no competing providers of services in Waushara County, which may, in fact, be similar to many rural areas where home care services are either scarce or non-existent. Feedback from care givers, clients and members of the community is extremely positive.
Still a successful and growing business, Cooperative Care was a 2004 Finalist in the Innovations in State Government Award of the Kennedy School at Harvard University. The essay supporting the nomination was written by Dianne Harrington, a social worker consultant who assisted with the exploration and development of Cooperative Care.
Watch the 40-minute documentary, Cooperative Care: Empowered Caregiving that explores the values and activities of this worker-owned health care cooperative in Wautoma, Wisconsin. For easy downloading and viewing, this video has been divided into 9 parts.
Circle of Life Cooperative in Bellingham, Washington
Established in 2009, Circle of Life is a worker-owned cooperative licensed by the Washington State Department of Health to provide in-home personal and home care services for seniors and disabled persons in Whatcom County. As the caregivers are the owners of the cooperative, they have a stake in the business and are highly motivated to provide the very best care to their clients. All caregivers are experienced and fully trained; they are insured and bonded. Caregivers are empowered to influence the plan of care, resulting in services that are carefully planned using the perspectives of the client, the client’s family, the client’s caregiver(s), and the caregiver coordinator. This results in integrated caregiving, which was not happening previously. In a small way Circle of Life has stabilized the community in that seniors know of their services even if they do not need them yet.
Denial of age and avoidance of dependency often prevent seniors from seeking assistance and hinders education of seniors, their families, and their communities about senior care options. Circle of Life Cooperative did a county-wide ad campaign, held a public community event, developed a training plan in basic caregiving and first aid/CPR, ran radio ads, and put articles in local papers and newsletters to educate people on the services available for seniors and their families and how people can help each other with aging issues across generational lines.
Paradise Home Care Cooperative in East Hawaii County, Big Island
Paradise Home Care Cooperative is a worker-owned business with a mission to be the premier home care provider in East Hawaii County on the Big Island. PHCC member/owners are professional, compassionate home care workers devoted to helping their clients live comfortably and independently in their own homes. PHCC is a major employer in the sparsely populated Puna District and employs about 15 caregivers and support staff. It expects to grow to 50 caregivers over the next five years.
The concept of the home care cooperative began 2004, with a grant from USDA’s Rural Home Care Cooperative Demonstration program assisted in the establishment of a task force to start a home care co-op in East Hawaii County. Results of the feasibility study, completed in 2006, were favorable. In 2007, CDF’s MSC Fund made a $23,240 grant to the Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC) to help the incipient co-op create a business plan and develop internal leadership. NWCDC also helped the co-op secure a working capital loan.