HHS department creates Administration for Community Living

New agency combines previous entities that dealt with disability, aging and developmental disabilities.

Kathy GreenleeA single agency will now oversee the federal efforts previously supported by three entities within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities are now combined in the new Administration for Community Living, or ACL.

The consolidation correlates with President Obama’s goal to promote care for people with disabilities and older adults in home- and community-based settings.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted in a statement that all Americans, including those with disabilities and seniors, should be able to live at home with the support they need and participate in communities that value their contributions.

With the creation of the ACL, “we are reinforcing this commitment by bringing together key HHS organizations and offices dedicated to improving the lives of those with functional needs into one coordinated, focused and stronger entity,” Sebelius stated.

“These support needs go well beyond health care and include the availability of appropriate housing, employment, education, meaningful relationships and social participation,” she said.

On May 22, administrators with the ACL held a Capitol Hill briefing to discuss the agency’s role. Among the speakers were Kathy Greenlee (above right), who serves as both administrator of the ACL and assistant secretary for aging, and Henry ClaypoolHenry Claypool (right), principle deputy administrator of the ACL and senior adviser to the secretary for disability policy.

Claypool said the department has already transitioned 70,000 people from institutional to community settings. He noted the ACL works as one on similar concerns for clients, such as finding affordable housing.

“States are really pushing change so it is time for us to come together to help our partners focus on the needs of the (combined organizations),” he said.

Greenlee pointed out that the ACL is a work in progress.

“We will continue to be advocates for nursing homes,” she said, later adding that health care will transform as the regulatory process of the Affordable Care Act moves forward.

“We can bring our knowledge and expertise to the table and have better health outcomes,” she said.

Some issues on the horizon include more demand for quality metrics in clinical settings, Claypool said. Greenlee added that more research is needed for evidence-based practice for quality of life outcomes.

Greenlee said the reorganization does not negate the unique circumstances and concerns of each population served by the ACL or the expertise service providers bring to working with people with different types of disabilities or older adults.

She said even though change can be difficult for many, “we are working with communities that love their field. We have kept letters of support. We’re responding to states and boldly stepping forward to support these very important populations and their dignity.”