Letters to the Editor

Proposition 1 will provide funding for Senior Services

I am writing this letter in favor of Proposition 1, which will provide funding for Senior Services at the current pared-down 2009 level.

I want to tell you about some of the work that Curt Van Hyning does. Curt is the Senior Services coordinator on San Juan Island. He currently works four days per week, but often puts in more time because there are just not enough hours in the already shortened workweek for him to do all that is requested of him.

He gets many calls from people with questions about their insurance, e.g. why didn’t my insurance cover this procedure, do I owe money to the insurance company, should I pay this bill, etc. These questions are not necessarily from people on Medicare, but from the rest of you here on this island.

He gets calls from people about to turn 65 or become disabled who want to know how Medicare works, what they should do about supplemental insurance, and what kind of medication coverage they should get. He will be conducting some meetings regarding the drug coverage soon, and has recruited computer-savvy volunteers to help people with selecting the best coverage for them.

Curt also counsels families and individuals about designing long-term care or nursing care solutions. Many younger people are bringing their parents to the island so that they can be available when the parents need extra help. They often need assistance in finding the appropriate resources for their parents. They need to know what their insurance will cover, and they need help in finding in-home caregivers.

Curt knows about in-home caregivers because he gets calls from people who want to be caregivers. He does a background screening and looks at their qualifications and keeps a list of those people who qualify as caregivers. He can answer questions about Medicaid, and help when that seems to be the needs resource.

He is also responsible for recruiting and training volunteers at the Mullis Center. This includes drivers to provide transportation and to deliver meals to homebound seniors, people to help with serving meals at the center, and office volunteers. Volunteers provide more than 7,000 hours of help each year. With the help of Bonnie Sliger, departmental assistant, he lends support to the volunteers as they do their work, lends medical equipment (walker, wheel chairs, crutches, etc.) and refers people to Hospice care.

He supervises the part-time coordinator of the Friends and Neighbors program which, through volunteers, provides free assistance to elders needing shopping, driving to appointments, getting home repairs, etc. He recruited providers for foot care clinic, blood pressure clinic, and tax counseling. He was responsible for setting up the balance class, where a physical therapist helps people who are in danger of falling.

He oversees the Special Needs Fund (money comes from donations) which provides short-term help with daily living costs and prescription drugs. He can authorize a two-week supply of a medication and then help the person apply to the manufacturer for free medications by mail. Basically he is finding out what people's needs are and then helping them meet those needs.

What will happen if Proposition 1 is not passed? Curt will be less available to counsel people personally or by telephone. His time will be cut back considerably because these services are not paid for in any other way than by county taxes. People will have to wait longer for help, because there is not enough staff time to serve them. There will be no volunteers because recruiting and supervision of them is not paid for except by county money.

In addition to all of his other duties, Curt has written requests for funding from other sources for some of the programs, including Friends and Neighbors and the new Wednesday Lunch for All. This lunch is available to all in the community at whatever they can afford to pay and is funded through the Community Foundation.

The Mullis Center can remain open only when there is someone to monitor the building. Already the cutbacks have caused the building to be closed on Fridays. With further cutbacks in staffing by Bonnie and Curt, the building will be open less often, reducing the services that are available.

I like to think that we are a caring community, one that looks after those in need. Proposition 1 would increase our taxes, but for most of us this would amount to $60 to $100 per year. Surely $5 to $10 per month is little to ask when you see what the returns are. Senior Services is one of the 11 services that would benefit from the additional tax revenue. I urge you to vote in favor of Proposition 1.

Georgia Baciu
Friday Harbor

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