Meals On Wheels stalled

Jefferson Parish is cutting almost 300 elderly people off from their Meals on Wheels delivery. I can’t imagine this being a very costly program with volunteers delivering the meals, and a donated truck to go from point A to point B.

An easy solution would be to fire Tim Whitmer, all the layabout administrators, and take all their “gift” monies to el jefe Broussard, and meanwhile get Broussard to donate some of his campaign funds, and the Meals on Wheels program would become solvent for the next decade.

Scores of elderly people stricken from Jefferson Parish Meals on Wheels program
By Bob Ross, The Times-Picayune
December 31, 2009, 7:00AM
van.jpgDonald Stout / The Times-PicayuneHarrah’s Foundation donated this 15-passenger van in 2008 to the Jefferson Council on Aging, which now is cutting back on its home-delivery meals program for elderly people.

Nearly 300 elderly Jefferson Parish residents have been removed from the Council on Aging’s meals program because of what officials say is dwindling revenue.

The program, often called Meals on Wheels because the offerings are delivered by volunteers, provides a daily meal virtually every weekday. Letters arrived in the past week to notify many residents that the meal service will end Monday unless they find a way to pay for the food themselves.

“We heard there were issues with the program … but this letter came as kind of a surprise,” said one 80-year-old Metairie woman who relies on the meals to help feed her 87-year-old husband, who has Parkinson’s disease. “I knew there were going to be cuts, but I didn’t think they’d put one to the aging folks that quickly,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified in case parish officials take issue with her comments.

The problem is twofold, said Al Robichaux, executive director of the Jefferson Parish Council on Aging.

First, the Title III federal dollars that help to pay for the program have declined slightly in the past several years while demand has increased since Hurricane Katrina.

The second issue is a surplus millage fund discovered by parish officials in 2007 and applied, in part, to the Council on Aging. That money, which has paid for nearly 1,200 meals in the past three years, is about to run out. Officials expect the millage to pay for only 163 meals in 2010.

“That is having a major impact,” Robichaux said.

Officials have been able to soften the blow for the upcoming year by securing a one-year grant from the state for $350,000 in supplemental senior center financing that can be used for the meals program, Robichaux said.

That money won’t be available in 2011, Robichaux. That could mean even more difficult decisions about whom the parish will help a year from now.

Even before making the recent cuts, Robichaux said the meal program had a waiting list of 200 people. Adding the 291 now being removed puts that waiting at almost 500 people.

“It’s heart-wrenching to talk to a person who has a need when you know you just can’t meet that need,” Robichaux said.

The situation is being felt throughout the New Orleans area and across the state as well, Robichaux said. Jay Bulot, head of the state’s Council on Aging program, couldn’t be reached Wednesday for comment.

Robichaux said the 291 people now being terminated from the program are the ones who had been added most recently. Council on Aging workers have been looking through the list of 291 and trying to offer any help possible.

An option for some is the Food for Families program through the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. That program, which provides a 40-pound box of groceries once a month, is strictly income-based, while the Jefferson meals program is not, Robichaux said.

Some of the other people on the waiting list could be included in the Jefferson meals program soon. On average, the meals program has a monthly attrition rate of 35 to 50 customers, Robichaux said.

“Hopefully, the attrition rate will allow us to attack some of that waiting list,” he said.

Parish Councilman John Young said council needs to get involved.

“Certainly we need to overturn every stone we can to try to restore those services,” he said.

As for the 80-year-old Metairie woman and her 87-year-old husband, they will figure out a way to pay for the $5.50 cost per meal — $1,375 a year — because of the help it provides. But the woman, a retired schoolteacher, said she worries more about other elderly residents who don’t have the options available to her and her husband.

“There are people who are alone and they just don’t eat,” she said. “I feel like some of these people will just accept whatever happens and I worry because they don’t have someone to fight for them.”


~ by maringouin on Thursday, December 31, 2009.

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