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Griswold Home Care Carving Out Major Role in VA Community Care Network

Diversifying revenue is a priority for many private-pay heavy home care owners.

To do so, some are starting to turn toward newer opportunities like Medicare Advantage and hospital-at-home models. Others, however, are turning to a familiar but sometimes overlooked partner: the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The VA is the part of the federal government charged with providing life-long health care services to eligible military veterans. When veterans need extra help around the house, those services include home-based care.

“They have a couple of different programs that help veterans as they age, especially in order to have home care,” Christine Friedberg, owner and director of Griswold Home Care NoVA East, told Home Health Care News. “In this particular program we’re a part of, they will work with a social worker from the VA directly, along with others on their care team as well, to coordinate services.”

Friedberg launched Griswold Home Care NoVA East about nine years ago. The Griswold location is based in Alexandria, Virginia; it serves that area, plus the densely populated counties of Arlington, Falls Church and Fairfax.

Griswold Home Care NoVA East doesn’t share key financial or operational numbers, Friedberg said. But the provider has served over 2,000 area families since opening its doors, she noted.

“There’s such a growing need and demand for our service,” she said.

Recently, Griswold Home Care NoVA East earned the distinction of being a Veterans Affairs Community Care Network (CCN) provider.

The VA CCN — made up of six regional networks — serves as a link between all sorts of providers and veterans. Moving forward, it will be the preferred national network the VA uses to administer and purchase care.

“We’ll see anywhere from five, 15 to 20 hours a week that the VA is covering, in terms of actually contracting with us directly. They pay us directly,” Friedberg said. “And so it’s very easy for the veteran to get in, take advantage of this program and take advantage of this care.”

Griswold Home Care NoVA East isn’t the only Griswold franchise to be accepted into the VA CCN. There are at least 32 offices participating in the program, with many more offices in the process of applying.

New owners in the system are heavily encouraged to apply for CCN recognition as well.

“This just makes a lot of sense, depending on the market,” Michael Slupecki, CEO of Griswold Home Care, told HHCN. “Obviously, certain markets have a higher concentration of veterans. In that Maryland and Virginia area, of course, there is a higher concentration.”

‘Demand is greater than ever’

Prior to her current job, Friedbergworked with franchise companies searching for franchisees. She also did market research on the space for FRANdata.

At one point, Friedberg was leading a research project for another large home care franchise group. It was then she learned the ins and outs of the home care business, including best practices and more.

After the birth of her first child, Friedberg was interested in another career that offered more flexibility, less traveling and more of a mission. Home care felt like the perfect fit, she told HHCN.

“I remember the moment. I was on my treadmill, thinking about how I’m looking for this personal next step in my life,” she said. “And professionally, I’m working with these home care companies. Griswold was one of those that I just really felt drawn to.”

While earning VA CCN recognition is helpful for diversifying revenue, the process — which took over a year to wrap up — was more about better serving Griswold Home Care NoVA East’s potential clients.

“Certainly from a business perspective, we’re always looking for diversification of revenue,” Friedberg said. “But our focus has really been on being good community partners and really giving back to our community.”

Today, the overall Griswold network spans 29 states and 168 markets. Adding to that footprint with dedicated franchise owners like Friedberg will be a priority for 2022 and beyond, Slupecki explained.

“We’re growing at a rate right around 10% compared to 2020,” he said. “We’ve continued to sell additional franchises, though probably not as many as we’d prefer. That’s a big initiative for 2022.”

To help with that, Griswold recently hired a new expert on the franchise-sales side who’s a veteran himself.

The No. 1 roadblock to Griswold’s growth goals is the industry-wide caregiver shortage. But one of the biggest boosts the franchise network has on its side is the increased awareness of all aging-in-place options.

“I used to get on the phone and talk with clients about home care being an option for them or for their loved one, but it was like a new concept for them,” Friedberg said. “For a long time, we were trying to educate the community about what home care was. Demand is greater than ever now.”