PA Secretary Of Aging Here
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Aging Brian Duke made a stop in Fulton County Friday morning to discuss issues facing older persons in the commonwealth as well as the state’s plan on Aging and the proposed privatization of the lottery.
Duke spoke before a full house at the Hustontown Senior Center overseen by longtime center director Peggy Grace as part of his commitment to visit all Area Agencies on Aging in the state. Onhand to greet the secretary were seniors from Huntingdon, Bedford and Fulton counties and commissioners representing Fulton and Bedford counties. Numerous members of the local Area Agency on Aging’s Citizen’s Advisory Council were also in attendance along with AAA executive director and senior citizen advocate Alan Smith.
In preparation for Duke’s much-anticipated visit on March 22, Smith told the crowd the quality of programming offered locally begins with the county commissioners. Smith said over the decades their leadership, governance and integrity have served local seniors well.
Looking ahead to the future, Smith noted the preservation of the Pennsylvania Lottery, which funds senior services, is an important and vested interest for AAA. “As a commonwealth, we can be of what we’ve done to enhance the lives of seniors,” Smith said before passing the microphone to county commissioners Rodney McCray, Craig Cutchall and Irvin Dasher.
Duke, a native of Bucks County, noted that the senior center he stood in Friday represented a coming together of the county commissioners. The center is one of 600 centers and satellite locations across the state where seniors can gather for friendship, education and nutrition, Duke said.
Touching on the Department of Aging’s mission of prevention and protection, the secretary of aging stated prevention is exemplified in the form of health and wellness programs and services that allow the elderly to stay in their homes. Meanwhile, protection ensures seniors are shielded from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment.
“Sadly, in the last year we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in reports related to financial exploitation,” Duke pointed out. “That’s not a good thing. Our mission is improving the quality of life. Our building blocks or foundation is prevention and protection. So we have a mission that drives us forward and is exemplified by the work that is done here.”
Duke referenced a map of sorts or state plan, which was approved by the U.S. Administration on Aging last fall. That plan, according to Duke, has several goals, including providing access to care at the right time and in the right setting with the right intensity; communities that provide a setting for elderly living; maintaining senior health and well-being; and revitalizing the Department of Aging.
“Looking at the governor’s budget, after two years of fiscal re- straint, we’re able to make some responsible spending increases,” Duke said about the $28.4 billion spending plan for the commonwealth that focuses on resources, education, jobs, welfare, public safety and agriculture. The plan also earmarks an additional $50 million for the Department of Aging.
“Here in Fulton County, just over $360,000 is given to support the good work of the Area Agency on Aging and our senior centers; over $320,000 for the PACE program; for the Shared Ride or Free Ride Program just over $99,000; for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program over $325,000; and long-term living services receive almost $210,000,” Duke calculated.
Continuing on the topic of budgets, funding and spending, Duke said 75 percent of the Department of Aging’s budget comes from the Pennsylvania Lottery. The remaining 25 percent comes from the U.S. Administration on Aging and tobacco settlement money. Given the high percentage of money received from the lottery, he said consideration is being given to having a private manager oversee operations such as the design of games, the printing of tickets and marketing. Under current operations the amount of money made through the lottery cannot be estimated, but a private company would be able to more accurately project a dollar amount the state could generate, Duke said. Additional money made through the lottery could benefit other programs such as PACE.
At this point, an agreement has been reviewed by the state’s attorney general regarding the privatization of the lottery. The attorney general has found several issues with the agreement and is unwilling to endorse it as it is currently written, said Duke, who added they hope to draw up a new contract that addresses these concerns.
“We have a commitment to older residents and need to remember how we will fund it,” said Duke.
Duke went on to touch on a variety of issues such as increased emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease; improving congregate and homedelivered meals; forming new partnerships, such as with the Department of Agriculture to improve access to agricultural products and fresh food; tax preparation services for seniors; and living wills/power of attorney.