CO-AGE begins push for legislative priorities

The SOWEGA Council on Aging is one of 21 ADRCs (Aging and Disability Resource Centers ) located throughout Georgia. (File Photo)

ATLANTA – In advance of the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia Council on Aging and CO-AGE (Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly) have identified the programs and issues they will advance to benefit older Georgians.

Top among CO-AGE’s priorities are increased funding for home and community-based services and support for the network of Aging and Disability Resource Centers, both of which help support older adults who want to remain in the community as long as possible.

More than 300 members of CO-AGE, including representatives of organizations that work with older adults and seniors themselves, voted recently on what they consider the most pressing needs for programs and services for older adults.

“It’s important to have buy-in from seniors and advocates on our priorities as we count on them to let their legislators know what’s important to them,” Vicki Johnson, chairwoman of the Georgia Council on Aging, which convenes CO-AGE, said. “The explosive growth Georgia is experiencing in the number of older Georgians means we need as many voices as possible to ensure that we are able to meet their needs both now and in the future. Without more funding and programs, Georgia’s seniors will have fewer options for help and more will end up in nursing homes, which will cost taxpayers considerably more than the cost-effective programs we support.”

CO-AGE officials say funding for home- and community-based services is a good investment for Georgia. They point out that not only do older adults prefer to stay at home, the cost to Georgia to provide such services is roughly one-tenth the cost of nursing home care. Currently, however, there is a waiting list of more than 7,000 individuals who are seeking assistance with such tasks as bathing and dressing, transportation to the doctor and home-delivered meals.

These 21 ADRCs located throughout Georgia provide information and referral services to older adults and persons with disabilities to help them navigate complex public and private programs to get the help they need. During FY 2017, Georgia’s ADRC’s served more than 95,000 individuals, linking them with more than 26,000 community-based providers. The $4 million request would add capacity by increasing ADRC staff, improving technology and marketing the program.

The remaining three CO-AGE priorities address service issues, with an emphasis on housing:

— New for 2019 is expanded Medicaid coverage for more Georgia seniors. This legislation will direct the Department of Community Health to develop a waiver to increase the income eligibility limits for seniors on Medicaid. As a result, more older adults will quality for low-income housing, saving precious resources for critical needs such as food and medicine.

— There is a lack of affordable housing for persons needing help with activities of daily living, such as meals, meds, dressing and bathing. Medicaid-funded assisted living will allow Medicaid funding to pay for assisted living facilities.

— Personal care home providers do not always comply with licensure and code enforcement. CO-AGE and the Georgia Council on Aging are calling for tougher personal care home requirements to increase penalties and sanctions for those homes not complying with existing regulations.

The Georgia Council on Aging was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1977 to advise the governor, assembly and state agencies on matters relating to Georgia’s seniors. Members of the 20-person council, drawn from every region of the state, also advocate for aging Georgians and their families and make recommendations to lawmakers and agencies on programs for seniors.

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