Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Special Blog: Tri-County Office on Aging

This week, I am going to take a different approach to this blog. While I usually report what is going on at the County Commission, I would like to focus on one of the many independent boards and commissions that Commissioners serve on – the Tri-County Office on Aging.

The Tri-County Office on Aging (TCOA) runs many awesome programs to assist and protect seniors and elder residents of the Ingham, Clinton, and Eaton cou area. This includes Meals on Wheels, the MIChoice Home and Community Based Waiver, long-term care programs, Medicaid and Medicare programs, etc. You can see all they do at and it is definitely an impressive list.

I am one of three Ingham County Commissioners that serve on the Tri-County Office on Aging board. We are joined by three representatives of the City of Lansing, as well as representatives of Eaton and Clinton counties. Our role is to make policy decisions for the Tri-County Office of Aging (which is one of the several Office on Aging Boards statewide).

On the Board, we set and review the budget of TCOA on a monthly basis. They have excellent staff, lead by Marion Owen (the executive director) and there are not many controversial items.

I have been greatly involved in several issues that come up frequently regarding important services provided to our seniors. One is Meals on Wheels. I don’t think I have to explain that one…it ensures that seniors receive balanced and nutritional meals regularly, and is has volunteers pick up the food at our facility and drive it to seniors in need. What a great program. The second great program the home MIChoice and community based waiver. Seniors generally want to remain in their homes as they get older. Unfortunately, there is more money available for nursing care than for at-home care. Nursing homes and care facilities are far more expensive for seniors and communities. The MIChoice program provides assistance to seniors for this home health care who want to stay in their home and just need a certain level of medical assistance. As Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook pointed out in a recent Lansing State Journal op-ed (July 7, 2011), “the average home health care visit under Medicare Part A and Part B is just $137. That same service if performed in a skilled nursing facility is $325 a day. If that service is performed in a hospital the cost is almost $1,500 a day.” I am not against nursing homes - they serve an important resource for those that need that level of care. I just believe that we need to also allow people to stay in their homes as they get older, and need to provide these necessary services at less cost to the elder and the community.

At the most recent meeting, we learned several interesting things. First, we learned that our budget would not have to be amended because the state budget did not include cuts to in-home services, volunteer services or nutrition. That is good news for our seniors, and for ensuring that we can provide the best care for those older citizens in need. Now we can get started on the 2012 budget. We also learned that the state Department of Community Health is holding a series of forums around the state regarding their plan for developing a Medicare and Medicaid integrated care initiative in Michigan. Michigan is one of 15 states to win a grant from the federal government to do this. DCH will develop a plan with public and consumer input. While I am happy they are looking into this to see about efficiencies and maximizing federal dollars, they are not holding a forum in the Lansing area which is very disappointing.

In addition, we heard updates about the nutrition programs that TCOA runs, as well as the Meals on Wheels program and input regarding that program. We also worked on updating the employee handbook to ensure that all procedures are clearly spelled out to employees.

The TCOA board is just one of many boards and commissions that county commissioners serve on as representatives of our constituents and the community. There are so many others, and I will try to highlight them in this blog when possible

NOTE: As always, I will add a reminder here that I will be posting this blog through facebook on my political facebook page ( instead of my personal facebook page. Please go to and click on “like” if you want to be on the list of people to have the notice in your news feed. I will also continue to send out the blog through my facebook group, but facebook is eliminating that group shortly.

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