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Friday, November 21, 2014

Council on Aging shares facts about the Clinton County Elderly Services Program

Elderly Services Program logo

Over the past year, changes to the Elderly Services Program in Clinton County have generated some rumors and misinformation. Some county residents have portrayed Council on Aging as a mean-spirited organization that is far away from Clinton County and does not care about seniors. Specifically, they believe Council on Aging is harming seniors by disenrolling several dozen individuals from home-delivered meals service.

It is understandable that people would be concerned about this information. Since 1998, the taxpayers of Clinton County have shown strong and generous support of the seniors in their community. Repeatedly, they have approved the senior services tax levy which pays for the Clinton County Elderly Services Program.

Because this program does so much good and is so important to seniors and their families, we at Council on Aging want to address concerns and questions that have been raised.

Question: Why is Council on Aging hurting needy seniors by taking away Meals on Wheels?

Facts:
You may know or hear about people who seem like they need services, but who have been found ineligible by Council on Aging. Perhaps they have received a service such as Meals on Wheels for a long time, but now they can no longer get that service. It’s only natural for some to feel this is unfair.

The truth is, we don’t like taking services from people any more than you do. We exist to help seniors stay independent in their homes. That is our mission. It is what we believe in. Throughout southwestern Ohio, we are helping nearly 20,000 older adults to stay in their homes with services such as Meals on Wheels, housekeeping help, and transportation. In Clinton County, we help nearly 640 seniors a year via the Clinton County Elderly Services Program, PASSPORT, Ohio Home Care program and Assisted Living.

But helping seniors comes with a serious responsibility to the taxpayers. They’re the ones who pay for the services. The taxpayers expect and deserve that programs live within their budgets and comply with the law. It is Council on Aging’s job to manage costs. We must make sure that the seniors who receive services are eligible to do so.

Eligibility criteria are included in state law or in program rules and regulations. Council on Aging must apply those rules when it meets with seniors and assesses their eligibility for services.

Eligibility can change. When it does, we adjust. If a person’s health declines, they may become eligible for new services. If health improves, we must end services they no longer need. This is only right and fair to the seniors and the taxpayers.

Over a period in 2011 and 2012, some seniors were getting home-delivered meals through Clinton County Community Action Program even though they were not eligible. When Council on Aging discovered this, we were obliged to end the meals service to these individuals. To continue to serve them would have been incorrect use of tax dollars. In addition, delivering meals to ineligible seniors was improperly taking funds away from other seniors who were on a waiting list for services. We could not allow this situation to continue.

Regarding recent disenrollments, assessments found additional individuals who were not eligible for home-delivered meals, and Clinton County Community Action was aware of the disenrollments.

There is an appeals process to make sure eligibility assessments are done correctly. Council on Aging informed these individuals on several occasions that this change was coming. We did not want anyone to be surprised. It’s important to know that some of these individuals continue to be enrolled in the Clinton County Elderly Services Program receiving other services for which they are eligible. In other words, when seniors qualify for services, they get them.

Whenever we disenroll seniors from services, we encourage them to contact us again if their circumstances change and they want an in-person assessment to determine eligibility. We definitely want to help them if they meet the criteria. People who have been dis-enrolled also have a right to appeal that decision.

Question: Why is there a waiting list for the Clinton County Elderly Services Program? I have heard it can take over a year to get on even if you are eligible.

Fact:
For years, the program has had a waiting list in order to stay within budget. In February 2014, Council on Aging assumed responsibility for care management of the Clinton County Elderly Services Program. Previously, that function had been handled by Clinton County Community Action Program.

When Council on Aging took on the care management function, the waiting list had 85 names of people who had been waiting from several months to as long as 18 months. It included individuals with dementia, cancer, paralysis following stroke, and many other serious conditions. Many of these seniors were being cared for by family members who desperately needed more help.

Council on Aging began by contacting or attempting to contact everyone on the list. We identified people who, for various reasons, no longer needed the Elderly Services Program. Others we enrolled in the program or referred for other services. In the meanwhile, inquiries came in from new people seeking help. We added them to the waiting list and within weeks or months, were able to enroll them in services.

In other words, we made it a priority to help people who had been waiting for help. We worked the list and got it moving. Today, the list has only 20 people and the wait is less than eight weeks.

If Council on Aging had not taken over the care management function, the waiting list situation would not have improved. Those seniors in serious need would still be waiting, while others were receiving taxpayer-funded meals for which they were not eligible.

Question: Why does Clinton County need a Cincinnati organization to run our programs? We would rather keep things local only.

Facts:
Council on Aging is not a Cincinnati organization. In fact, we have an office in Wilmington which provides space for our employees who live and work in the area, serving residents of Clinton County.

In addition to the Elderly Services Program, we provide other programs that serve seniors and people with disabilities in Clinton County including PASSPORT, Assisted Living, and Ohio Home Care. We have a health coach who helps patients in our Care Transitions program at Clinton Memorial Hospital. Most of these staff members live in the area and we have members of our Board of Trustees who live and work in Clinton County. We have been serving county residents on the PASSPORT in-home care program since the 1980s, and have been managing the Clinton County Elderly Services Program since 1998.

Council on Aging is a regional organization serving multiple counties with offices in Hamilton County, Clinton County, Butler County, and Dayton Ohio. Most of our care managers work out of their homes and every day are out and about throughout the region – including all over Clinton County – meeting with seniors where they live. In short, Council on Aging is not a distant organization, but is a part of your community and honored to be so. The tax money raised in Clinton County is used entirely for the benefit of Clinton County residents.

Our Clinton County office is located at 2241 Rombach Avenue and can be contacted at 855-800-7980 or coasilver@help4seniors.org.

As the Area Agency on Aging serving southwestern Ohio, Council on Aging is charged with planning and overseeing programs that help older adults in our region. We are a non-profit organization, not a government agency. But elected officials, such as Clinton County Commissioners, rely on our expertise to manage the taxpayer-funded programs in their communities. We are recognized by the Better Business Bureau as a winner of the Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

As a regional organization, we have the capacity to deliver to seniors, families and taxpayers the accountability they expect. One recent example of stretching the tax dollars: We conducted a competitive bid among providers of emergency response services. The winner is able to deliver high-quality service at lower cost. The Clinton County Elderly Services Program will save an estimated $136,500 in emergency response provider costs over five years. With those savings, the program will have more money to enroll and serve additional seniors.

While it is our job to ensure that tax dollars are spent on appropriate services for eligible participants, our goal is to serve as many seniors as possible with the available funds. To that end, we publish a report to the community each spring that provides details about the clients we serve and how every dollar of the program is spent.

The chart below shows how Clinton County tax dollars were spent on services for Clinton County seniors in 2013. It includes detail about what services were provided through the program, how many seniors received each service, and how much money was spent on each service. This report – and previous year’s reports – is available on our website.

Clinton County Elderly Services Program 2013 Expenses

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