Friday, August 22, 2014
(Marin County) Supervisors ‘largely agree’ with grand jury report on elderly
August 21, 2014
Marin Independent Journal
By Nels Johnson
County officials had plenty of kind words for senior citizens this week as they lauded a civil grand jury report on aging in Marin, but took issue with an assertion the county lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with low-income elders.
The Board of Supervisors, taking time on a busy day to discuss a jury report called "Aging in Marin: What's the Plan," praised the jury's work while pledging to support the county's growing ranks of seniors.
The board approved an administration response to the report without change. "We largely agree with the jury," County Administrator Matthew Hymel said.
While the county commentary indicates most jury recommendations have been implemented or will be, it registered "partial" disagreement that the county did not have a long-term plan to accommodate impoverished elders. The response noted that the county's Area Agency on Aging issues a four-year plan on senior needs and services that is updated annually. It said $100,000 has been budgeted for "community wide action to address the future demands on the aging services network," and that an "aging action initiative" is in the works to address "the most pressing needs of older constituents."
The county board sidestepped a call for it to provide more leadership, rejecting a jury finding that there is "a lack of recognized leadership on addressing senior needs in Marin." The response embraced by supervisors contended many agencies collaborate to deliver services in a partnership that creates "a stronger aging services system."
The grand jury recommended the Board of Supervisors take a leadership role in developing a plan taking full advantage of the county's nonprofit sector and volunteer community. Little progress has been made, jurors said, since a jury in 2007 issued "Aging in Marin — An Essay in Uneasiness." That report warned the county was not prepared for the "silver tsunami" about to engulf it.
The 2014 jury report notes a fourth of all of Marin's population is 60 years or older, and that a third, or 121,000 residents, will be by 2030. "There are a growing number of Marin seniors without adequate financial resources to meet their basic needs," it added.
The jury reported 3,500 Marin seniors over 65 have annual incomes below the federal poverty level of $11,670. It said another 9,000 to 12,000 Marin adults over 60 have incomes of less than $29,000 a year.
The grand jury, noting services provided by the county's Division of Aging and Adult Services are supported by federal and state funding, urged supervisors to develop a contingency plan "for funding services when state and federal funding sources are unavailable or reduced." The jury added: "The Board of Supervisors must be prepared, if necessary, to reallocate funding of existing non-senior programs to provide the county's share of needed senior programs."
Supervisors agreed that contingency planning was "not warranted," citing the difficulty of planning for changes in "every state or federally funded program" and noting the county has tucked away $4.8 million in a reserve fund for use if needed to ease funding cuts.
Board members gave the jury report high marks overall and made clear the county's elders are a priority.
"I really appreciate the grand jury's report," said Supervisor Katie Rice. "It's important to continue to highlight the needs of our senior population." Many important issues were raised in the jury report, added Supervisor Kate Sears. "We do need to stand tall for our seniors," observed Supervisor Steve Kinsey.