Senior Services Change Protested

Editor, News-Register:

Across Belmont County today, over 2,000 senior citizens are benefiting every month from the outstanding care provided by Belmont Senior Services. Every month over 600 seniors are being transported more than 16,500 miles to crucial medical appointments such as kidney dialysis, chemotherapy, radiation, post surgery-care and other essential appointments by people who have become like family. Every month over 1,000 Belmont County residents will sit down to fresh, hot, meals (over 15,000 meals every month), cooked locally and delivered by people they know and care about. Many others are going to their local vibrant senior centers, for the friendship and support of people they have known their entire lives. Still more remain independent because of home maker services and home health aides who assist with daily living.

These wonderful elders are benefiting from the seamless management of services that is only possible after 39 years of experience, dedication, and love from this one-of a kind non-profit organization – Belmont Senior Services. Belmont County is extremely lucky to benefit from one of the most innovative and effective programs in the state of Ohio, and they know it. Belmont County voters routinely have spoken with their dollars, supporting and renewing tax levies to maintain and continue to improve the level of services provided to Belmont County residents, by Belmont County residents.

With such an outstanding record of quality, service, and community support, I was shocked to learn of the decision of the Belmont County commissioners to blithely disregard years of excellence and terminate the services of Belmont Senior Services. What happened? Why are such sweeping changes being made that will surely not only reduce the quality and services delivered every day to our elders, but will also eliminate the jobs of people dedicated to serving our seniors? What plans have been made to ensure the quality and care voters are paying for? What is the hurry? What was the bidding process? Why are seniors now going to have to divulge sensitive personal and financial information just to belong to their local senior centers? Where is that information going, and how will it be kept safe? Who is going to replace the nine-person all-volunteer board who currently oversee these services? If this is a legitimate plan, why was the decision made behind closed doors without our seniors or even the taxpayers being given a chance to be involved or part of the discussion? It is clear that our seniors have the most to lose; the question is who has the most to gain?

As president of the St. Clairsville AARP Chapter 2994, I must express my personal dismay at both the way this is being handled and the short-sighted decisions that are being forced upon the members of our group and all the seniors in Belmont County. Belmont Senior Services is a program that has provided stability for our seniors for the past 39 years and is one of the premiere senior programs in the state. The voters of Belmont County have openly and consistently supported the current services under Belmont Senior Services. The seniors of Belmont County have openly and consistently expressed their strong disapproval of the pending changes in services from Belmont Senior Services to Department of Job and Family Services. Making sweeping changes without real input from voters and without a proven, transparent plan to improve services is a determent to all the taxpayers of Belmont County. The people of Belmont County, especially the hard-working seniors deserve better.

Mary Harrison, president

AARP Chapter 2994