Future uncertain for Isle of Wight companion service

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight County Social Services Board managed to squeeze another $56,000 from its existing budget to fund the companion providers program through the remainder of the fiscal year.

The future of the program, however, is uncertain. 

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Initiated this year with $50,000 from the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, the program provides a host of daily living activities designed to fill a gap in services for elderly and disabled adults. 

It is an entirely local program, separate from an existing similar program that relies on local, state and federal funding. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight Social Services Director Rusty Jordan had come to the Board in August, stating that the program, which began July 1, would run out of money by November. 

Jordan reported Sept. 19 that the Social Services Board was able to move items around in the budget to make up the needed $56,000, but asked the supervisors if the Board could pitch in at the end of the year, if the program ran short. 

However, the program is set to end June 30, based on this funding strategy, said Jordan. 

If the program isn’t closed down, and based on the need that has been identified, it would cost about $106,900 a year, and that includes cutting some hours, said Jordan. 

One option is to the take the original funding amount and use it to purchase preventative items, such as hospital beds, wheelchair ramps, seat raisers, medical alert devices and other equipment to solve problems and keep people in their homes, said Jordan. 

The program can also be designed to help family members perform many of the duties and preventative care rather than the county “going in and taking over,” said Jordan.  

Jordan said his agency has also approached local churches, as well as Isle of Wight County Christian Outreach, for possible volunteer assistance. 

The program is now serving nine adults with 21 on a waiting list. Jordan said that local churches have since identified more than 60 individuals who could benefit for the service. 

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. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton said the county has about $20,000 of unallocated money it could use to shore up a shortfall at the end of the fiscal year, should that become necessary. 

Keaton did point out that the program would likely cost $1 million a year to serve 100 people. 

Board Chairman William McCarty and Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice were reluctant to throw in the towel. 

“We began this program. We have the obligation to finish it, at least for this fiscal year,” said Grice.

McCarty wanted to set a higher goal for the Board. 

“I’m not a proponent of casting something away because we can’t figure it out. We need to figure it out. The answer is not we tried it, shut it down,” he said. 

Jordan, in turn, warned that it’s predicted that 30 percent of Isle of Wight residents would be age 60 and over by 2030. 

“We’ve got the gray wave,” he said. {/mprestriction}