Services To Seniors Threatened

November 27, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

More low-income seniors in Carroll could lose reduced-price meals, home-based medical care, free insurance help and even a place to live if the next round of state budget cuts means the elimination of Maryland's Office on Aging.

"Gloom and doom is more or less the modus operandi around here," Janet B. Flora, chief of the county's Bureau ofAging, said before meeting with the county commissioners yesterday. "If something positive happens, that would be news."

The budgetary outlook is grim. If Gov. William Donald Schaefer eliminates state-funded aging programs -- Carroll uses about $413,000 worth a year -- the county's poor elderly residents will feel the pinch.

"The programs affected . . . serve the most vulnerable elderly and those at risk of nursing home placement," Flora wrote in a memo outlining the effects of a total elimination of state aging money.

"If this . . . becomes a reality, we will be unable to provide the level of service we have in the past."

Even that level of service has already been pared down, as the Bureau of Aging budget escaped barely intact in the last round of budget cuts.

Among the programs that face elimination or reduction with reduced state funding are:

* About 10,000 of the 50,000 reduced-price meals served to low-income seniors would be cut.

* Low-income seniors at risk of being placed in a nursing home -- they numbered about 100 last year -- face the loss of $300 a month in home health services. If that money is eliminated, Flora said that those seniors would be placed in a nursing home.

* Seniors receiving rent subsidies -- now about $470 a month -- could end up being placed in nursing homes if that subsidy is cut.

*Health insurance counseling, which has recovered more than $155,000 for seniors since 1989, could face cutbacks in staffing.

* Transportation funding could face further downsizing. Carroll Transit Inc.'s$400,000 budget already has taken a $15,000 hit, and could be in formore cuts, said Linda R. Boyer, the director of the private, non-profit bus service.

"If this becomes a reality, it by and large targets those individuals who are most vulnerable," said Jolene Sullivan, Department of Citizen Services director and Flora's boss. "The sad reality is you've got it at both ends. You've got the children that getlost by the wayside, and then the seniors who lose funding. We're getting hit at all different angles."

Services for elderly Carroll residents have been close to the chopping block since March, when the county's own budget needed balancing. The commissioners were able to find other ways to balance their spending plan, but, they and Sullivan said yesterday, a loss of more than $400,000 would be difficult to make up.

"It's beyond that," Sullivan said. "This isn't the sort of thing that we can really appeal to the community for."

The commissioners and other county officials -- most notably those in the social services -- have been turning to the community to make up for partof the $3 million in state money lost to cuts last month.

For fiscal year 1991 members of the community volunteered a total of 470,000hours, Sullivan told the commissioners. At minimum wage, those hourswould have cost the county about $2.8 million.

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