Permanent solution for Senior Companions being discussed
Who would provide it?
And how would it be funded?
These are three big questions that need to be answered before Rock County community leaders can fill the gap left by the June 17 closing of the Senior Companion program formerly run by Senior Services of Rock County.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency that administers Senior Companion Programs, terminated its agreement with Senior Services of Rock County due to lack of compliance and concerns outlined in an April letter.
The program matched frail people 60 and older with low-income healthy seniors to help them with shopping, doctor appointments and breaking the isolation that can come with old age.
Representatives of some of the now-defunct program’s funding sources met July 1 to discuss finding an organization to pick up the program. On Friday, nearly a dozen leaders from the community met again, said Joyce Lubben, director of the Rock County Council on Aging.
At the meeting were representatives from the Corporation for National and Community Service, both United Way organizations in Rock County, Mercy Health System on behalf of its Association of Volunteers, the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program of Rock County, Voluntary Action Center, Rock County Council on Aging and former members of the Senior Companion advisory council.
“We didn’t really review much past history. It was a meeting of let’s go forward,’’ Lubben said.
Representatives from the Corporation for National and Community Service discussed rules and regulations and what it would take to apply for permission to operate the program under its guidelines, she said.
“They kind of went over policies and some suggestions about what we should look at if we’re going to apply for a nonfederal funded senior companion program,” Lubben said.
They also discussed what the community needs.
“I think the final analysis is, yes, down the road we would like to have another senior companion program. But what we really need first is a stopgap measure for people who need assisted transportation,’’ she said.
RSVP of Rock County is taking a look at filling that gap, Lubben said.
“RSVP would love to do this but can’t with existing staff, which takes money. Even if it’s a volunteer-driver program that would provide assistance, we still need mileage money to reimburse volunteers at an acceptable market rate. They need to put together a budget and see what funding is available for that,’’ she said.
“We’re really working toward a solution that would fill the gap,” Lubben said.
Those who attended Friday’s meeting recognized that they need to figure out the scope of the gap and identify people who need help. Both United Way organizations and the Rock County Council on Aging are taking the lead on that, she said.
Another meeting date has not been set, but Lubben said those involved in Friday’s meeting most likely would get together again next month.
“We don’t want to just leave these people hanging. We feel a responsibility to try to fill this gap,” she said. “But, of course, one of the biggest hang-ups is the financial piece.’’