Why a Senior Health Program May Get Cut Board of Health to Decide Fate of Its Award-Winning Gerontology Service Tonight
Wallace, Diana, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Diana Wallace Daily Herald Staff Writer
The DuPage County Health Department gained national recognition last year for addressing the needs of older citizens "amidst an environment of declining financial resources."
Now the department's own money troubles may spell the end of the very program that received honorable mention for excellence by the California-based Archstone Foundation just last year.
The board of health is expected to vote tonight on whether to eliminate its gerontology program as a way to help close a multimillion-dollar budget hole.
The program has been largely educational, funding a newsletter distributed to about 17,000 seniors, as well as presentations to seniors on topics like preventing falls, using medication safely and communicating with doctors.
But it also involved in-home assessments for seniors, where a nurse with expertise in gerontology would visit seniors to help match their individual needs to available health and social services.
"I think (the cuts are) a tragedy," said Marget Hamilton, manager of the Older Adult Institute at the College of DuPage, who helped convince the department to start the program several years ago.
"It's an extremely important program. It costs the county very little and is a great benefit," she said.
The program costs less than $100,000 annually, a small portion of the department's $40 million budget.
But as assistance from the state and federal government has dwindled, and as the department faces new challenges like bio- terrorism preparedness and West Nile virus, the health board has been forced to cut spending by about $3 million.
The board of health has already cut some mental-health and sex- education programs and eliminated three jobs.
Department Executive Director Leland Lewis said the board had little choice but to cut programs and jobs as it's watched its revenues drop.
The department is trying to salvage what it can from the gerontology program by diverting some services to other programs.
Lewis also mentioned the array of other services seniors can access, even if those programs are specifically for seniors. …