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Elder Services wants control of senior programs

Lovejoy said that besides writing to Ponder, she has reached out to elected officials who represent Okaloosa County and its municipalities for their support in Elder Services’ attempt to provide the programs.

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When the Okaloosa County Council on Aging provided various senior services, “no elder needing services was made to wait for a meal, a bath, homemaking or shopping for groceries.”

That’s according to a Sept. 14 letter from longtime senior advocate Ruth Lovejoy to state Rep. Mel Ponder (R-Destin). Lovejoy is the executive director of Elder Services of Okaloosa County, formerly known as the Okaloosa County Council on Aging.

She said in her letter that too many Okaloosa County seniors are on waiting lists for services provided by the DeFuniak Springs-based Walton Okaloosa Council on Aging. Such services include personal care, housekeeping, companionship, meals and other assistance in the Community Care for the Elderly program.

Officials from the Northwest Florida Area Agency on Aging, in Pensacola, and the Walton Okaloosa Council on Aging recently said that it’s not at all unusual for senior-care agencies to have waiting lists.

“People are always on a wait list, and the wait lists grow every year for our four-county area” of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties, said Amber McCool,  executive director of the NWF Area Agency on Aging.

Kay Brady, director of the Walton Okaloosa Council on Aging, said the Okaloosa County Council on Aging also had such lists.

“All agencies have always had people on waiting lists,” Brady said.

McCool said the NWF Area Agency on Aging on Thursday will award a new, six-year contract to a provider that will administer senior service programs for seniors age 60 and older in Okaloosa County.

“We’re going through the bid process right now,” McCool said recently. “So far, two providers have said they were interested: The current provider (WOCOA) and Elder Services.”

Lovejoy said that besides writing to Ponder, she has reached out to elected officials who represent Okaloosa County and its municipalities for their support in Elder Services’ attempt to provide the programs.

“My request is twofold,” she said in her letter to Ponder. “Elder Services of Okaloosa County is required to demonstrate the support of the local municipalities to be considered acceptable as the provider. The second and equally important goal is to regain local control of this county’s federally funded senior service programs.”

About eight years ago, the Bridgeway Center won a bid and began providing the programs instead of Elder Services/Okaloosa County Council on Aging. Bridgeway ran the programs for a couple of years, and then turned them back over to the Area Agency on Aging.

In 2011, the Walton County Council on Aging won a bid to provide the programs and became the Walton Okaloosa Council on Aging.

Lovejoy said the Okaloosa County Council on Aging had won several awards “for being an outstanding program. We had one of the best programs in the state of Florida. It took a lot of years to build that program, and now we have waiting lists for people not being served.”

Brady said seniors are continuously placed on and removed from waiting lists.

“We take people off the waiting lists all of the time,” she said. “Sometimes, we remove three and four may go back on.”

The Walton Okaloosa Council on Aging currently serves a total of 523 seniors: 244 in Okaloosa and 279 in Walton.

Senior service programs that have wait lists include the Meals on Wheels program. Brady said 31 Okaloosa seniors currently receive home-delivered meals, while 141 Okaloosa seniors are on a waiting list.

Other programs with waiting lists include the Community Care for the Elderly program. It’s currently provided to 32 Okaloosa seniors, with 189 Okaloosa seniors on the waiting list.

“When funding becomes available, we will contact those individuals (on the list) and see what services they need, and then make an assessment,” Brady said. “We have large waiting lists, but a lot of (seniors on the lists) probably don’t qualify for a certain service or don’t want that service.”

Too, “If they’re 60 and above, they get on a waiting list whether they qualify or not,” she said. “We’ll do a short assessment…and as they need a service, they will get reassessed and get moved off the list.”

Elder Services of Okaloosa County is the administrator of an in-home care provider, a Meals on Wheels program and the Crestview Manor and Twin Cities Pavilion assisted-living facilities. Lovejoy said Okaloosa County has about 39,000 residents who are age 60 and older.

Article source: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/news/20171008/elder-services-wants-control-of-senior-programs

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