Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TOP STORY >> Silver Haired Legislators serve in the state Capitol

Leader staff writer

Seniors from all over the state converged on the Capitol last week for the biennial Silver Haired Legislature, a forum for seniors representing the state’s eight Area Agencies on Aging.

Elected delegates from each county and their alternates prepared mock legislation which they debated in committee sessions.

Issues the seniors tackled in committee meetings included legal, revenue and tax; aging services, long-term care and senior centers.

Long Term Care Committee chair Billie Dougherty, 83, of Ward said it was her sixth time to participate in the Silver Haired Legislature.

She said her committee proposed bills to supplement federal funding for the ombudsman program which, by the 1965 federal Older Americans Act, provides advocates for residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

Dougherty’s committee also seeks to balance the Medicaid long-term care system by increasing home and community based supports and services.

Another of the committee’s bills would reduce Medicaid expenditures by providing care transition and medication management services to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations.

The committee would seek $2.5 million from the state to stabilize Meals on Wheels.

“I know now how to write the bills. Our (committee) was quiet,” Dougherty said. She said earlier that previous sessions have developed bills which were eventually taken into consideration by legislators. Dougherty’s committee co-chair was Harriet Raney of Region II, the White River Agency on Aging which includes White County. Jack Harris was the representative from White County. Shelly Moran of Cabot was also a Lonoke County delegate.

CareLink President Elaine Eubank of North Little Rock said, “I thought the bills that came through the committee were thorough.” CareLink, Region V, includes Lonoke, Pulaski, Faulkner and Prairie counties in its six county area.

The session examined is-sues important to seniors, including revenues and taxation, aging services, long-term care and senior centers. This year’s session dealt with some critical problems older persons are facing now and will face in the future.

“Most seniors are worried about changes coming for Medicare and Medicaid,” Dougherty said.

Others have voiced concern over nutrition programs at their local senior centers. The centers are facing cuts at a time when hunger among seniors is reported to be on the rise. The committee dealing with problems facing the state’s senior and wellness centers asked for additional funding for the centers including $5 million annually for operations, congregate meals, home-delivered meals and transportation.