Growing need, limited resources

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

A new program designed to fill a gap in care for elderly and disabled adults is already facing a financial strain. 

The companion providers program, administered through Isle of Wight County Social Services, began July 1 and will likely run out of money by November if it doesn’t get another cash infusion, said Social Services Director Rusty Jordan. 

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“I can’t leave these people hanging,” said Jordan Monday about running out of money and having to end the program. 

Jordan went to the Board of Supervisor recently to raise awareness of the issue and explore options to keep the program running. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The question for this local program is whether the county can continue to fund it in the face of a growing senior population, said Jordan. 

The companion providers program currently serves nine adults, with 14 on the waiting list. Companions provide assistance with housework, cooking, keeping track of medications, running errands and other tasks. The local program began this fiscal year with $50,000 from the county, but Jordan estimates it will take another $58,000 to finish the year, which ends June 30. 

It is separate from a similar program that receives local, state and federal funding. 

The service is available to impaired adults age 18 and up, as well as adults age 60 and up. There are also income restrictions, and an evaluation is conducted to determine the level of impairment. The goal is to keep folks in their homes as long as possible, and the program also provides emotional and social benefits, as many are shut-ins, said Jordan. 

The individuals in this program do not qualify for a Medicaid waiver, and that program is also limited, said Jordan, adding that only one nursing home in Isle of Wight, Consulate Health Care in Windsor, now takes Medicaid, and they are full. 

It’s often the program of last resort, said Jordan. 

Jordan said he asked the state for $47,000 to ease the squeeze on the program but was turned down. 

Jordan estimated that each program participant costs about $11,000 a year for about 10 hours assistance a week. Social Services has already cut hours in an effort to make the money last longer, he said. 

Jordan said another possibility is to ask churches to sponsor a companion program with volunteers, he said. 

Finding caregivers, particularly in the southern end of the county, is also difficult, said Jordan. 

Jordan plans to go to the Social Services Board about the issues and return to the Board of Supervisors with some possible options. 

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said the lack of funding — particularly for Medicaid waivers — for disabled and special needs adults makes him angry. He wants to pressure elected officials at the state level to address the problem, as well as get the county’s Special Needs Task Force going. 

Earlier this year, Acree proposed creating a Special Needs Task Force, and county staff is working on the scope of the project.  {/mprestriction}