Innovator and leader in health promotion and health care delivery programs for seniors
Not long after June Simmons earned her MSW from USC in 1970, she became the first social worker to be hired at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, where she was instructed to “do something about aging.” For the next 45 years and counting, that is what she has done—as well as “doing something” for other vulnerable populations.
Simmons’ passion and drive were evident from the beginning of her career. As Chief of Patient Services, she created a child abuse and trauma assessment center, a sexual assault collaborative and a court guardianship assessment center. Recognizing the potential of a hospital to be a focal point for services for older adults, she developed the Senior Care Network, a comprehensive geriatrics center that became and remains a vital resource in the city. From Huntington, Simmons moved on to leadership roles in the Visiting Nurse Association of Los Angeles. As the CEO, Simmons oversaw the reinvention of the VNA, culminating in the creation in 1997 of the Partners in Care Foundation (PICF), an organization that upheld the VNA’s values while broadening its goals and its reach.
As founder and CEO of Partners in Care, whose stated mission is “to design and implement new models of evidence-based care that address the key social determinants of health,” Simmons has pioneered and carried out a wide range of innovations to integrate care across primary care, hospital, home and community settings. The use of the word “partners” in the organization’s name is significant: Its programs rely on partnerships between health care systems, social services and, often, governmental agencies to achieve better health at lower cost for high-risk populations.
One example of the many programs operated by the Foundation is HomeMeds, now in use in 18 states, which uses a computerized risk assessment and alert system to help elders keep track of their medications. Simmons then took this program further, adding psychosocial, functional needs and safety assessments to create individual service plans. PICF also holds workshops for self-management of diabetes, chronic pain and chronic disease, and provides a Multipurpose Senior Services program that empowers older adults to live independently as long as possible.
The word most often applied to June Simmons by her colleagues is “visionary.” In addition to the groundbreaking programs she created at the PICF, under her leadership the organization was also a founding partner of the Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium (GSWEC) and of the national Evidence-Based Leadership Council. The recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her accomplishments, Simmons serves on a variety of local and national committees, boards and task forces that shape policy and practice locally and nationally. Simmons also provided that visionary guidance as an original co-chair of the Hall of Distinction committee when it was formed in 2002 stating, “we encourage others to enter the field, raise the standard of practice, and heighten community awareness of the role of social workers in improving society.” She has remained committed to this declaration in her varied and impactful initiatives.