Senior services expansion proposed

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont County Commissioners will consider a proposal from Department of Job and Family Services Director Dwayne Pielech to expand senior services by entering into a contract with Faith in Action Caregivers Inc. of Wheeling.

The contract would be for a maximum of $51,000 effective Sept. 17, 2012 to Oct. 31, 2013.

On Wednesday, commissioners voted against the proposal due to unresolved questions, but may reconsider at a subsequent meeting.

Pielech noted that Faith in Action works with church organizations in the county, largely serving senior citizens.

He said that since his department took on senior services, meal delivery and in-home care is increasing and the department is at full capacity for medical transportation and has partnered with the fire department for Medicaid transportation.

“We’re doing it for a fraction what the former organization paid their upper level management,” he said.

He noted Belmont County has among the fastest growing aging population in the state. Demand for services has increased and there is no waiting list for on-demand transportation.

“With this partnership with Faith in Action, they’re going to help fill in some of the gaps we can’t get to,” Pielech said, adding that the group would be capable of providing added in-home care and the ability to perform tasks such as taking seniors shopping, offering personal budgeting assistance, respite care and cleaning.

“We could probably expand to another 800 seniors in Belmont County,” Pielech said, observing that the $51,000 comes out to $5 per senior per month in in-home care.

He said the $51,000 would be drawn from the levy funds.

“We collect levy dollars to serve seniors,” he said.

Jeanette L. Wojcik, executive director of Faith in Action, added that her group provides in-depth care and cleaning that Pielech’s staff and contract would be unable to do. She said the organization utilizes volunteers and donations. There is no charge for services but the funds would be used to coordinate activities.

She added that they help about 1,800 people in Ohio, Marshal and Belmont counties, with 29 percent from Belmont County. They use a coordinator and 300 volunteers. She said the contract would allow them to further expand services.

“Our volunteers are friends and neighbors who are helping friends and neighbors,” she said, pointing out the need to reduce isolation of the seniors. “That is the whole basis of our program.”

Commissioner Ginny Favede voted against, and recommended seeking an opinion from the prosecutor regarding the legality of using levy funds. Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. agreed that a legal opinion would be necessary, though he was in favor of the contract.

Commissioner Matt Coffland voted in favor, noting the need for these services.

Favede also noted that the $51,000 called for Faith in Action to employ a coordinator. She voiced concerned about increased operational costs.

Coffland commented that coordination was necessary to organize the activities and insure the quality of volunteers who would work with the seniors. He said the contract would be a good investment.

Pielech noted that senior services continued to operate under budget.

“We were allocated $2.2 million and we have $1.2 million available through the first six months,” Pielech said. “We do what we think is in the best interest of seniors, and being able to serve an additional possible 800 senior citizens is a good thing for Belmont County.”

He added that the public has supported the local senior levies due to their concern for the seniors’ well-being. He noted the improvements in efficiency and expansions of service his department has offered.

Also, Coffland added hopes that the public votes in favor of the upcoming senior services levy. He noted increased demands since food distribution requests have gone from 650 to 800 meals. They have added a new route and are considering another one. Their in-house medical transportation is close to 50 per day and an added 70 through the EMS.

“Our programs are full,” he said.

Favede noted that services have a reserve of $2-$3 million, so there would be no immediate stall of services should the levy fail to pass.

Coffland added that there would eventually be a waiting list for meals and services as the funds were eaten away.

Pielech noted that the levy represented $1.1 million of $3.2 million of funding.

“If this levy fails, seniors will lose services,” he said.

DeFrank can be reached at