Slowdown planned in Clinton County Elderly Services Program enrollments

By Gary Huffenberger - [email protected]

From left are Council on Aging (COA) President Suzanne A. Burke and Ken Wilson of the COA.

From left are Council on Aging (COA) President Suzanne A. Burke and Ken Wilson of the COA.

Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

WILMINGTON — An increase in the county’s senior services levy may be in the offing, given financial projections and growing enrollment.

The prospect was raised at an appointment this week between the Council on Aging (COA) of Southwestern Ohio, which administers the Clinton County Elderly Services Program (ESP), and the Clinton County commissioners.

Due to budget constraints, one case manager position has already been eliminated and COA is seeking to start a waiting list for senior services in November.

The draft budget for 2021 includes having a waiting list, flat rates for homemaker and personal care services, and care plan cost reductions of $144,000. To that end, care managers will evaluate each care plan to determine whether service changes can be made, according to a COA handout.

If no changes are made to current Clinton County Elderly Services Program operations, the COA projects that the levy fund balance will run out of money by July 2022. The current levy cycle ends in December 2022.

Presently, there are about 460 Clinton County ESP clients. According to the COA handout, with some additional cost-saving actions, it projects services can be provided for about 407 seniors.

Current plans call for slowing down the number of people enrolling in ESP.

“For example, this could be enrolling one person for every three disenrollments until we reach program enrollment of approximately 407 [clients] in 2022,” states a COA handout.

For next year, COA projects a net reduction of 24 clients, or 5.3 percent, according to a handout.

“Managed enrollment in the program is needed based on levy funds available,” it added.

In order to reduce the number of clients, COA would “assess and triage each new referral and establish priority on the waitlist,” a handout states.

Clinton County’s ESP helps older adult residents with services such as home-delivered meals, transportation to medical appointments, homemaking assistance, and personal care. It provides in-home care for eligible seniors who might otherwise need to leave their homes and enter a nursing facility, states the Council on Aging’s website.

Ken Wilson of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio and COA President Suzanne A. Burke gave the presentation to the county commissioners.

Wilson said the agency cannot run the program into a deficit situation, and they are seeking to meet the commissioners’ objectives of staying within the budget.

Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed responded, “The state of the budget is very important, but protecting the services of these seniors is very important, as well. So, this board [of county commissioners] will need to have some further conversation.”

Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods asked several questions of the COA representatives, including one about Title III monies and another about the relatively new FastTrack Home services for seniors who are being discharged from the hospital.

Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty said he’s looking at a trend in rising numbers due to Baby Boomers reaching the age where they need more assistance, while at the same time the revenue numbers remain level.

Wilson said when you look at long-term trends, it is a challenge. There are policy options that COA could bring to commissioners for their consideration, he said, such as changing eligibility so that the program focuses on clients who are comparatively more frail and needy.

Another option is the 1.5-mills senior services tax levy, said Wilson.

As noted above, the current levy cycle ends in December 2022. The year 2021 is the fourth year in the cycle, and in the last cycle, the tax levy was renewed during the fourth year.

The first Elderly Services Levy here was approved by Clinton County voters in May 1998. This 1-mill, five-year levy garnered 60.4 percent of ballots cast, with a day-after tally of 3,438 in support and 2,252 against.

The May 6, 1998 Wilmington News Journal article reported that Clinton County Citizens for Elderly Services Treasurer Dean Knapp stated more than half the counties in Ohio had passed similar levies to offset the loss of state and federal funding for senior services.

In May 2003, a proposed 1.19-mills, five-year tax levy “providing or maintaining senior citizens services or facilities” was approved by 69.9 percent of voters, with an official count of 3,370 for the levy and 1,449 against it.

In November 2007, a senior citizen services levy received 67.1 percent of the votes cast. A total of 7,006 Clinton Countians voted for the levy, while 3,430 residents were opposed.

In March 2012, support for the senior services levy increased to 75.9 percent. The official count showed 5,864 voters in favor, and 1,859 people against.

And in November 2016, the percentage of approving voters was the same solid 75.9 percent. The official count from that General Election registered 13,767 for the levy and 4,368 against.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

From left are Council on Aging (COA) President Suzanne A. Burke and Ken Wilson of the COA. left are Council on Aging (COA) President Suzanne A. Burke and Ken Wilson of the COA. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

By Gary Huffenberger

[email protected]