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Friday, May 31, 2013

COA to begin waiting list for Hamilton County Elderly Services program

Council on Aging will begin a waiting list for the Hamilton County Elderly Services Program on Monday, June 3. The program, which provides home-delivered meals and other in-home services to thousands of frail seniors, has been growing more rapidly than anticipated. 

"To avoid having a deficit at the end of the 5-year levy period (end of 2017), we must act now to slow the enrollment," said Ken Wilson, COA`s Director of Program Operations. "Rapid program growth is threatening to outpace our levy revenue. We are only five months into the new levy cycle, but by starting a waiting list now, we may be able to keep it to a reasonable level, as well as buy time to explore additional options to control expenses."

COA may be able to move people to the top of the list in certain emergency or critical situations. COA`s Aging and Disability Resource specialists will screen callers and, in most cases, specialists will suggest that they make other arrangements if possible because the wait time in unknown, and could be several months. 

The program is not closed, so if people are able to wait, they should go ahead and get on the list because enrollment will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

COA will keep the waiting list current by contacting people every two months to confirm whether they still need services and want to remain on the list. 

COA has been concerned for some time that demand for the Hamilton County Elderly Services Program will eventually exceed the funding available through the county senior services levy. Several years ago, COA took steps to manage the enrollment and cut costs. Eligibility in the program was tightened so that it would serve only the most frail seniors-those most likely to have no alternative but to move to a nursing home. Through efficiencies in service delivery, care management and competitive bidding among providers, COA saved more than $300,000 in operating costs.

More than 90 percent of the program`s funding comes from the senior services levy. The most recent levy was approved by voters in November 2012 by a margin of nearly 75 percent. It was a renewal, but is projected to generate less revenue than the previous five-year levy because of an overall decline in property values. 

"We hate having to start a waiting list on a program that is so important in our community," Wilson said. "We`ve been here before and know that it has a major impact on people`s lives. But we have to work within the financial limits of the program. We will continue to search for efficiencies and eligibility changes that will help control costs without forcing people to wait for services. "

The Hamilton County Elderly Services Program served more than 7,000 frail seniors in 2012, providing, among many other services, more than 430,000 hours of in-home care and more than 3,300 home-delivered meals. 

COA administers three other Elderly Services Programs: in Butler, Clinton, and Warren counties. The Clinton county program has had a waiting list for several years. The Butler and Warren county programs do not have waiting lists.

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