ElderSource CEO speaks out regarding local senior services

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I offer this letter to the community to provide clarification about the changes happening at the Clay County Council on Aging. My hope is that this information answers some questions and provides the members of your community with reassurance that the services to seniors are not in jeopardy.

Let me provide a bit of background to explain how services to seniors are delivered in Clay County. ElderSource, the nonprofit organization for which I am CEO, is the Area Agency on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Center for Northeast Florida, as designated by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. We receive state and federal dollars to finance a variety of senior services in our seven-county area, which includes Clay. Our mission is to: Empower people to live and age with independence and dignity in their homes and their community.

What does this mean to the older adults living in Clay County?

We are the main funder of the programs, activities and services provided by the Clay COA. They are supplemented by financial support from the County, as well grants and donations. For example, when you go to a senior center for a meal or an activity or if you get services in your home, the funding comes from ElderSource. We regularly monitor the COA to ensure funds are being spent appropriately and that seniors are receiving quality care and services.

Let me be clear: ElderSource does not manage any aspect of the Council on Aging’s contract for transportation. So this letter will not address any aspect of how Clay Transit operates in the county. Rather, that is a relationship between the County Board of Commissioners and the state’s Transportation Disadvantaged Program.

What I will address are these things: why senior services in Clay will soon be managed by an agency other than the COA; how the employees of the COA will be impacted and how older adults tapping into the senior services in the county will be affected.

On Monday, December 3, the Board of Directors for the Clay County Council on Aging and ElderSource announced that the Clay COA is unable fulfill its role as the provider and manager of senior services in the county. ElderSource will subcontract with Aging True Community Services to provide services in the community. Aging True is the lead agency in Duval County. The transition is underway with an effective date of January 1, 2019. Aging True will not manage any aspect of Clay Transit.

As the senior services provider, Aging True will manage the four congregate meal sites and senior centers in Orange Park, Keystone, Middleburg and Green Cove Springs, as well as adult day care and in-home services. This includes the distribution of home-delivered meals along with a variety of senior care support services such as respite, personal care, homemaker and companion care. Aging True is not new to this arena. The organization has been around for almost 60 years.

I would like to address a particular statement made in a recent Letter to the Editor. The former Executive Director for the Clay County COA believes that these decisions were made “at the detriment of the employees at the Council on Aging and the citizens of Clay County.”

The decision to cancel the contract with the Clay COA was not made hastily or without review of the financial state of the Clay COA. The primary concerns were to maintain quality services for seniors and to ensure that employees remain in place to continue doing the great work that they do. No one is losing their job. Seniors should not see or feel any interruption in services.

If action had not been taken to engage the expertise of Aging True to take over the senior services in Clay, then the employees and the community would have suffered.

As of today, the Clay County COA has not dissolved, as stated by the writer of the previous letter. All the key agencies – ElderSource, Aging True, the County, and the Board of the COA – are working closely to carry on with great strength, cooperation and purpose. We will not lose sight of why we are here: for the seniors, their caregivers, for the community.

I really like the quote: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

I believe this to be very true of the organizations working together for the community of seniors in Clay County.

Linda Levin, CEO

ElderSource

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