County streamlining services for area seniors

Anoka County and the Anoka County Community Action Program are streamlining their services to the senior population.

The purpose is to avoid duplication and focus resources and extra money to ensure the health and safety of seniors, according to Cindy Cesare, county director of mental health and social services.

To accomplish that, the Anoka County Board, on the recommendation of its Human Services Committee, has approved amendments to the contract the county has with the community action program that will increase the total contract amount through Dec. 31 from $135,132 to $184,421 for the provision of additional senior services.

Anoka County senior services staff provide short-term social work services to seniors over the age of 65, according to information provided to the board and its committee.

This includes assessments, service planning, problem solving and information and referral.

In the past four years, there has been an average of 3,500 requests a year for information and services as well as a growing need for social work intervention involving self-neglect, caregiver abuse and financial exploitation.

In addition, the county contract with the community action program pays for programs for seniors provided by the agency – senior outreach workers, senior information line, senior companion program and chores and more, Cesare said.

Requests for those services have steadily increased over the past couple of years, she said.

According to Cesare, the county’s senior population over the age of 65 has grown from 13,566 in the 1990 to 32,232 in 2010 and is projected to jump to 53,440 by 2020.

This significant growth has meant an increasing number of service requests to both the county and the community action program, Cesare said.

And more requests for information and referral resources have meant considerable duplication of effort by the county and community action program, she said.

The streamlining will redirect information and referral calls from county senior services to the community action program and through the contract change, the county will pay for additional staffing at the community action program to handle those calls.

The additional funding is coming from existing funds within the human services division budget, Cesare said.

By doing this, the county social services staff will be freed up to focus on more short-term, social work invention dealing with health and safety issues and delaying moving seniors from their homes, according to Cesare.

“This will be cost effective and will enable us to respond to the highest priorities,” Cesare said.

“We will be able to provide more services to seniors in need.”

The Anoka County Community Action Program, Inc. is an independent nonprofit agency, which began in 1965 under the federal Economic Opportunity Act, and serves thousands of residents in the county through a wide range of programs.

A volunteer governing board, made up of representatives of the public sector, private sector and the low-income community, directs the activities of the community action program.

County Commissioner Robyn West is a member of the governing board and abstained from voting on the contract changes.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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