Senior services targeted in budget cuts

April 21, 2011 Heather Chin
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Senior advocates rejoiced earlier this month at news that fullstate and federal funding had been restored to city senior centers,but the joy was short-lived, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced$6.6 million in proposed cuts to the Department for the Aging forsocial services provided to homebound elderly.

The cuts would specifically target case management agencies,eliminating over 8,000 homebound elders from the list of thosereceiving meals and other health services and crossing off another900 from waiting lists. In addition, say aging service advocates,the average caseload would increase from 70 to 85 or more per caseworker, and at least 112 social workers would lose theirjobs.

This is a 30 percent cut to case management – social workers goingto homes and making sure seniors are taking their medication, havefood, have family members looking after them, said Bobbie Sackman,director of public policy at the Council of Senior Centers andServices. They check into elder abuse, look out for mental healthissues, refer them to service benefits and Home Energy insurance.It’s not some sweet young thing visiting a little old lady. Theseare complicated issues.

For MJ, a 93-year-old widow with limited mobility living alone in athird-floor apartment in Sunset Park, the visits she receives fromHeights and Hills, a Brooklyn-based aging organization, have madeall the difference for her safety and continued physical and mentalhealth.

MJ’s fixed income had qualified her for home-delivered meals since2005, but it wasn’t until a social worker visited her last summerthat she received her first doctor’s check-up in several years anddiscovered that she showed signs of being in the early stages ofdementia and needed medication and mobility assisting devices tohelp her get around the house. She now has a primary carephysician, a home attendant and an air conditioner for herapartment.

It is people like MJ who senior advocates say are affected mostharshly by efforts to cut what they say are basic programs forhealth and safety.

Why are seniors being constantly put in a position to doadvocacy for services they need, questioned Sackman. Physically,it is hard, but it scares them and frankly, makes them angry thatpeople who they voted into office would turn around and deeply cutservices that are needed.

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