HISTORY & PROFILE of Area Agency on Aging District 7, Inc.
During the past thirty-nine years, Area Agency on Aging District 7, Inc. has grown from a small group of dedicated volunteers to one of the most successful regional entities in southern Ohio. The region it serves, located in the most rural part of Ohio, covers over 5100 square miles of relatively undeveloped countryside, and is characterized by high unemployment, high poverty levels and a significant exodus of younger people leaving the area to find employment. Since 1972, AAA7 has continued to incorporate many programs as a part of its directive through the Older Americans Act to plan and provide a comprehensive and coordinated system of care through in-home and community-based supportive and nutritional services. The agency continues to explore other opportunities to improve and/or expand the services available to the targeted populations served in the district.
Building a strong foundation……………
In 1972, Rio Grande College was selected to sponsor one of only four model projects in Ohio that were funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging. This decision resulted from a year’s worth of meetings and planning by a 12-member District Council on Aging formed to represent a four-county area including Gallia, Jackson, Meigs and Vinton counties. The council focused on ways and means to assist elderly individuals living within the district. The Area-Wide Model Project developed social services, such as transportation and information and referral, for older Americans. Two years later, the Model Project was officially designated the Area Agency on Aging District 7, Inc. (AAA7) by the Ohio Commission on Aging, the forerunner of the Ohio Department of Aging. At that time, the area served by the agency was expanded to cover the present ten counties in southern Ohio, excluding Meigs County. The counties served are: Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton. At that time, the Ohio Commission on Aging designated area agencies on aging throughout the state of Ohio to plan and implement services statewide. Grants from the federally legislated Older Americans Act of 1965 and related amendments (OAA) provided the funding for services and agency operations.
Expansion of AAA7 services began in 1978 with the addition of the Nursing Home Ombudsman Program, a service mandated in the OAA. The program receives, investigates, and addresses complaints by older individuals who are residents of long-term facilities and advocates for the well being of such individuals. Since that time, additional responsibilities that broaden the scope and requirements of this program have been incorporated into state law. AAA7 continues to maintain the Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. AAA7 also contracted with the Ohio Department of Health to operate the Nursing Home Area Training Center (NHATC) to provide training to long-term care facilities staff in southern Ohio. This program was discontinued at the state level several years later. Part of the pre-1980 expansion also included the responsibility for the planning and supervision of facility improvements to multi-purpose senior centers. The state legislature had passed a bill providing for such improvements and/or expansions and designated the Ohio Commission on Aging and its related area agencies on aging as the responsible agents for these projects throughout the state. This program was discontinued during state budget negotiations in the late 1990s.
Rio Grande College continued to sponsor Area Agency on Aging District 7, Inc. until 1980 when the council formed a separate, private, non-profit organization. Governance is provided by a self-perpetuating fifteen-member Board of Trustees comprised of not more than two individuals from each of the ten counties in the service area. Appointees to the board include a wide variety of community, business and organizational leaders. The Area Advisory Council, composed of individuals representing agencies and organizations throughout the district, advises the Board of Trustees on service needs and other areas of concern to older adults and other frail and vulnerable populations. They also participate in advocacy efforts on behalf of older adults living within the district.
Shortly after becoming an independent not-for-profit agency, AAA7 assumed responsibility for the Nutrition Program funded through the Older Americans Act. The nutrition program provides congregate dining opportunities and home-delivered meals through a network of over twenty dining sites and numerous rural routes. Local senior citizens centers and/or community action agencies maintain commercial kitchens that comply with all state and federal regulations regarding food preparation in order to prepare and distribute these meals.
A new era in service delivery to the most at-risk populations…………
The largest expansion of services to older adults came in 1990 when AAA7 became the administrative agency for the PASSPORT (Pre-Admission Screening System Providing Options & Resources Today) Medicaid Waiver program. The AAA7 region was one of the last to be included in this statewide program, but consistently holds one of the top three positions in enrollment and services rendered. The PASSPORT program provides in-home services to older adults age 60 and over who medically qualify for nursing home placement and meet specific financial eligibility requirements. This three-way contract between the area agency, the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) serves to provide in-home, case managed services including personal care and home-delivered meals as well as medical transportation, adult day care, emergency response systems, and durable medical equipment. By arranging the most appropriate mix of in-home services to add to the care provided by family members and friends, individuals are able to delay nursing home placement. Another cooperative venture between the three entities is the Residential State Supplement Program. Through this program, ODJFS provides a cash supplement to low-income aged, blind, or disabled individuals who need assistance with daily activities such as bathing, eating, or dressing, but do not require skilled nursing care provided in a nursing home. These cash supplements complement an individual’s personal resources, so he/she can live in a more home-like, congregate setting. The recipient will be assigned a personal case manager from AAA7 and will be eligible for a Medicaid card to pay for medical expenses.
AAA7 has a wide range of other services and programs to complement the core mission of the agency. Care Coordination provides case management and in-home services for individuals who need assistance but are not eligible for the PASSPORT program. Service Coordination, available in three separate sites throughout the district, places a qualified individual in apartment complexes to help elderly and disabled residents’ access services and programs they may need. The coordinator is on-site weekly to offer assistance and information, make referrals, promote healthy lifestyles and wellness, encourage common interests and activities, and improve quality of life. The Emergency Home Repair Program provides actual home repair through partnerships with the Ohio Department of Development and the office of USDA Rural Development to eligible older adults. Repairs can include anything from installation of sanitary sewer system and access to potable water to major structural and roof repairs. The National Family Caregiver Support Program is designed to take care of those who care for others by assisting in preparation for the role of caregiver or providing ongoing information, support, referral and assessment as individuals provide care and support to loved ones.
Systemic change in health-care brings opportunities………..
The common denominator in all agency programs is information, referral, and linkage to services either provided by AAA7 or available in the respective community. From the Kinship Navigation Program working with grandparents raising grandchildren to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Case Management program working with another at-risk population, AAA7 remains committed to searching out and developing programs and services to address the unmet needs of older adult and other at-risk populations.
Recent achievements include designation as an Aging and Disability Resource Center through the Ohio Department of Aging and the successful completion and implementation of a consumer- directed home and community-based program for non-Medicaid waiver individuals called, “My Care, My Way.” This program was funded through the Administration on Aging as a partnership with the Ohio Department on Aging. AAA7 was the only area agency on aging in the state chosen to develop and implement this program of national focus.
Through the development of a four-year strategic plan, AAA7 reviews the mission of the agency, service needs and gaps, the current environmental factors that will influence programs and services either directly or indirectly, and analyzes the opportunities available, and the capacity of the agency to embrace these opportunities. This internal and external review provides the process by which AAA7 can more readily be prepared to respond to any changes and new developments that impact programs and services to the older adults and at-risk individuals.
The 21st century is bringing new challenges and opportunities. The AAA7 management team and staff are looking forward to ensuring that the significant progress already achieved is continued. The future is bright, and we remain committed to building on our strong foundation of partners as we work toward our agency’s vision.