MAKING A DIFFERENCE
By Darlene Donloe
For 35 years, the Archstone Foundation’s mission has been to improve the health and well being of older Californians and their caregivers.
The endowed organization’s vision is for all older Californians to have access to high-quality coordinated care that effectively integrates health and social services.
Through Archstone, capacity building grants as high as $50,000 are distributed, as well as regular grants ranging from $200-$300,000 over a two- or three-year period.
When it comes to the criteria for programs seeking grants, Archstone Foundation President and CEO Christopher A. Langston said they spend a lot of time visiting nonprofits, going to conferences and understanding what the big opportunities are.
“We are really interested in organizations that want to make a change, not just keep doing what they are doing,” he said. “That’s our main work. In addition, we have an open request for proposal — capacity building for direct service organizations like Meals On Wheels or a health care clinic.
“Maybe your company needs a new computer system or training for your board. You can apply to our capacity-building program. We started it 18 months ago. We funded 20 organizations within a year and a half with funds from our $120 million endowments.”
The Archstone Foundation’s values are the guiding principles that inform its work and how it conducts itself through accountability, compassion, innovation, integrity, learning, openness, responsibility, partnership and collaboration, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
While the organization’s values, vision and mission haven’t changed, its focus shifted to incorporate what the organization calls the three Ts: teams, training and technology.
Langston, who is proud of the new strategic plan, explained.
“We have identified a way to make important contributions and some hope of large-scale change,” said Langston, a married father of three. “Our current strategy is to integrate health care and social support services.”
Langston said the foundation wants to get people “better care and better support.”
“We want to promote the use of interdisciplinary ‘teams’ to build a bridge between health care and social services,” he said. “For instance, doctor’s offices and Meals On Wheels programs — we want those to be better coordinated. We want to ‘train’ health professionals and social service workers so they are better able to take care of older people.”
Langston said, “Not every health professional is trained in geriatrics or gerontology.
“It’s not a big part of a nursing education or social work education,” he said. “There are a lot of people working in health care who don’t know about taking care of older people.
“The third strategy is ‘technology.’ We’re in the 21st century. There has to be technology that helps everyone work together effectively and empower people and their family and caregivers to be in charge of their own care.”
As an example, Langston said if someone is getting Meals On Wheels, their provider needs to know if they get hospitalized — so they can stop deliveries and do an assessment. The Brooklyn-born native, who was raised in Northern California, said there is a need to be able to share that information across the board with everyone who needs to know.
Langston, 58, who studied gerontology because “health and well being matter” and because “when you’re in your 80s and 90s, it can be a difference in life and death,” doesn’t believe aging has to be a bad thing.
“Older people don’t have to be sick and disabled,” he said. “They should expect more from health care and social services. They should demand more. Demand better care. It can and should be better.”
Stakeholders throughout Southern California and a wide range of regional and national experts identified long-standing systemic failures and the lack of coordination between health care and social services as fundamental challenges.
Archstone Foundation is a 30-year-old private grant-making organization with a mission to contribute towards the preparation of society in meeting the needs of an aging population. Over the years, it has championed initiatives in fall prevention, the prevention of elder abuse and neglect, spirituality in palliative care, and most recently launched the Depression in Late-Life Initiative to improve depression care for older adults.
Since its inception, the organization has awarded more than 1,100 grants totaling more than $117 million.
Archstone Foundation was formed in 1985 when Family Health Program, Inc., a nonprofit health maintenance organization, became a for-profit corporation and was required by state law to convert the fair market value of its assets into a charitable foundation.
The FHP Foundation’s Board of Directors identified health care and older adults as one of the foundation’s central interests, in part due to FHP’s longstanding focus on health care and Medicare contracts.
The name Archstone Foundation was selected in 1996 to create a separate identity from FHP, which was acquired by PacifiCare Health Systems.
An “archstone” is an important linking piece in an architectural span or vault. The foundation’s name represents its desire to serve as a social sector connector, partner and supporter of organizations and individuals in California devoted to the greater good. It also reflects the foundation’s commitment to partnership and to creating enduring change.
Langston, who became the second president and CEO of Archstone Foundation in January 2019, said Archstone “wants to do things that impact the large number of older people who aren’t doing well.”
“We don’t fund a lot of working delivery services,” said Langston, who has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus; and a post-doctoral fellowship in late-life mental and physical health comorbidities at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Geriatric Center.
“We try to figure out ways that the money can be spent better. For example, we just finished a program with adult day health centers. We are supporting them for three years at $100,000 a year to develop new ways of working with caregivers and reaching out to populations that are underserved — to do things differently and be more helpful.
“We see that as our role to try to catalyze, change policy, and help professionals know what they need to know. Our work is to help the system work better.”
When he speaks of older adults, Langston said he is referring to those who are at least 65 and eligible for Medicare.
“Everybody is aging,” said Langston, a leader in philanthropy with 18 years of experience in program design, evaluation and foundation management “For many populations, some who are poor all their lives — they age faster. If you’re homeless, you age faster. We try to worry more about the person and how they are doing than the age. It’s the mileage, not the years.”
“Making a Difference” is a weekly feature profiling organizations that are serving their communities. To propose a “Making a Difference” profile, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.