Pennsylvania is just beginning to devise a long-term approach to ensuring quality care for aging and disabled residents.
Brian Duke, secretary of the state Department of Aging, said the state plan will represent the collaborative efforts of its 52 local agencies for older Pennsylvanians.
“You know, it’s predicted by 2020, one in four people will be over the age of 65. We know there’s also a growing number of persons living with disabilities in the commonwealth,” Duke said. “As we see that growing demand, we also know there’s a challenge of finite resources.
But Duke said he is not looking to boost the available state funding.
“The idea of a lot of additional funding flowing out probably is not a reality we’ll see in the near term,” Duke said. “But we do want to see the plan create opportunities to engage other sources of funding or resources in the community.”
Duke said he’s looking for ways to include philanthropic partners.
Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick said the biggest challenge facing senior services at the county level is money–and he’s long been calling for the state to devote more from its lottery fund to those efforts.
Hartwick said the state’s lottery fund was established to serve older Pennsylvanians, and there’s money available to help take some of the pressure off of local agencies pinched for resources.
“We’re quite disappointed that the state continues to sit on a $150 million lottery fund reserve that could certainly be used by the state Department of Aging and every agency on aging across the commonwealth to be able to meet the needs of our growing senior population,” he said.
Duke says the state wants to help communities assess their aging population and figure out how to best serve them.
“When we look at health and wellness, we want to work on everything from educational outreach to improved health, but we also want to look at programs that perhaps help people recently discharged from the hospital so they’re not readmitted as they live with a chronic disease, illness, or injury,” he said.