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Butler County has plan to serve more of its elderly population

With the number of senior citizens on the rise in Butler County, the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio offered a new contract deal that will allow them to serve more people.

The county has had a contract with the agency for 20 years, administering programs that are funded by the Elderly Services levy. The county put out request for proposals this year as the contract is expiring but COA was the only entity to respond and under the new deal the county can save money on administrative fees and hopefully serve more seniors.

“Under the old contract there was a set amount of $63,360 a month,” Ken Wilson, vice president of program operations with the COA said. “We’re proposing a seven percent fee which would result in about $250,000 in savings over the next five years of the levy cycle.”

A study by the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University shows the 60-plus population in the county is expected to rise by almost eight percent in 2030. Wilson said their numbers are bearing out the state and nationwide trend.

“In 2015, the final year of the previous levy cycle, the program served 3,787 seniors. In 2016, the program served 3,808, including 969 new enrollments,” Wilson said. “This means more than one quarter of the total number served in 2016 were new to the program.”

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The program provides transportation, meals, emergency monitoring and other services. Rosemary Wisecup, a 91 year old Hamilton resident, said she wouldn’t be living in her home now if not for the four-wheel walker cart and chair lift the program provided.

“The Council on Aging, they have helped me immensely,” she said. “I was falling all the time and then they gave me a four-wheel cart so I can around here in the house. I have fallen but I never hurt myself, but I don’t fall that much anymore. They just helped me get around where I need to go.”

She said now she also has free reign of her basement where she likes to sew, do laundry and other tasks, because of the chair lift they installed.

“They gave me a chair lift and that is a Godsend,” she said. “I can go down to the basement to do my ironing, my laundry, get things out of the freezer. And if I want to paint I can paint and I have another sewing machine down there.”

The Elderly Services levy — which was renewed by voters in 2015 with 74 percent of the vote — brings in about $51 million over the five years. The commissioners met with Wilson and Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Burke recently to discuss the new contract.

The seven percent administration fee is applied to the total monthly expenses for serving the elderly. Finance Director Tawana Keels suggested they put a cap on the amount of the fees, since it is now a percentage and not the set amount of $3.8 million under the old contract.

“One thing you may want to discuss is a cap that says we won’t pay more than a certain amount,” Keels said. “If the programming goes up, you’re going to pay more, so a cap is probably a good idea.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter wanted to know if the services they are providing are the correct ones for today’s environment. Kevin Kurpieski, a social services supervisor for Job and Family Services, said the only gap he could identify is those people who are in between needing nursing home type services during the day and those active seniors who populate senior centers.

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“Some people don’t quite fit the adult day services setting and they aren’t independent enough to be at a senior center so there is a little bit of a gap there for people that are moderately impaired,” he said. “But there are other options.”

Waiting lists have been a problem in the past but Wilson said they don’t have one right now. He said they are looking down the road when more people might need them.

“We’re always looking for ways to reduce costs so that more seniors can receive services,” Wilson said. “It’s more about serving the growing population.”

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