Fort Valley State University is providing Georgians Internet access and an opportunity to save millions of dollars by using a classroom on wheels.
The Mobile Information Technology Center (MITC), a high-tech computer laboratory housed in a 72-foot semitrailer, is packed with 20 individual computer training stations. The unit can be set up in numerous field locations to conduct workshops and trainings.
Terrence Wolfork, assistant administrator for communications, conferencing and technology, said the unit serves as a mobile site for programs throughout the year. Two in particular,
Financial Records Keeping for Farmers and Medicare Open Enrollment, take up the bulk of the mobile unit’s booking dates.
“From mid-October thru mid-December, the mobile unit is exclusively dedicated to the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) for the Medicare Open Enrollment Program,” Wolfork said. “This allows us to work with senior citizens so they can update information on prescription drug and social security plans,” Wolfork said.
This program is designed to provide free assistance with drug and health plan information to Medicare recipients and their caregivers. Wolfork said that through DHS, this forms a partnership with GeorgiaCares.
The FVSU assistant administrator said the mobile unit travels to locations where a number of senior citizens, especially in rural areas, reside.
It was a great classroom model to teach farmers technology and help them simplify their records.
“A lot of times, senior citizens can’t get to the buildings where the GeorgiaCares offices are located, but if we go to them they can actually register for their services,” Wolfork said.
The latest available data (at press time) from 2017 show the mobile unit is successfully providing services to clients.
More than 278 individuals completed Extra Help and Low Income Subsidy (LIS) applications and submitted them to the Social Security Administration for a potential savings of $1,640,725.19.
In addition, 483 clients submitted applications to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). These individuals met the standards for Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) and Qualified Individuals (QI-1) benefits and potentially saved $653,203.94.
Also, 181 clients completed the Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) and 683 Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Plans).
GeorgiaCares staffers expressed gratitude for FVSU’s mobile unit assisting them promote the program.
“During the 2018 Open Enrollment Period, our partnership with FVSU helped expand outreach to Georgians living in rural communities,” said Christine Williams, GeorgiaCares Program team lead. “Georgia Cares has partnered with FVSU for years and it has always been a pleasure working with FVSU’s mobile technology unit staff,” Williams said.
Pamela Hurst, professional and volunteer coordinator for the State Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA), said the MITC is the highlight of GeorgiaCares Medicare events throughout Georgia.
From January to mid-October, the MITC serves as a traveling classroom for a host of workshops and outreach programs, most notably financial record-keeping programs to help farmers modernize record keeping methods. Wolfork, along with technology specialist Yolanda Surrency and Extension agents Stefan Price and Charlie Grace, used Microsoft Excel and Quickbook Accounting software to educate more than 500 farmers statewide.
Grace said without the computer, software and video equipment available on the mobile unit, he and Price wouldn’t have been able to conduct their workshops.
“It was a great classroom model to teach farmers technology and help them simplify their records by inputting their information to a Microsoft Excel platform,” Grace said. The FVSU Extension agent added that by teaching farmers on the mobile unit how to use spreadsheets, it will ease the process of filing taxes and applying for federal loans.
In addition, Wolfork said the mobile unit annually visits more than 400 middle and high school students across the state and makes stops at various libraries and job fairs. During site visits, instructors teach clients about everything from Internet safety to resume’ writing.
“We’re a self–contained unit that travels throughout the state, and we’re just glad to be able to help,” Wolfork said.
To learn more about the MITC or to schedule it for an event, contact Wolfork at (478) 825-6053 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.