Senior citizens in Southwest Louisiana are up in arms about the governor's proposal to put the State Office of Elderly Affairs in the Department of Health and Hospitals.
Local elderly and those who provide services for them echo the familiar saying, "If it ain't broke don't fix it!" As they gathered at a forum at the Lake Charles Civic Center this week, they announced their opposition to officials who came here from the health department to explain the proposal.
State health officials are holding forums around the state on the governor's proposal. Seniors and local councils on aging think it's a terrible idea. Beauregard Council on Aging's Connie Granger was one of those shouting out questions and comments during the presentation. "No, no, no, no! It's not who we serve! It's what programs are being duplicated!" she shouted, asking for evidence there's duplication of services.
Deputy Secretary of Health Kathy Kliebert attempted to dispel concerns. "It is simply moving that state office, the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs employees to the Department of Health and Hospitals to start bringing together services as one unified, senior voice. It creates opportunities for improvements in our service system.
But seniors and council on aging directors aren't buying it. Dinah Landry directs Cameron Council on Aging. "Nobody's ask us to come to the table on this and we are really afraid that our senior services will be in jeopardy. So, we're here. We brought our senior citizens because we believe seniors should have a voice in government. Everybody's going on record opposing this but nobody's listening where it counts."
Landry and others feel the health department is already such a massive bureaucracy that elderly affairs will get lost. Yet others are unhappy with the system in place and the handling of issues such as complaints against nursing homes. Concerned citizen Kaye Langley shouted out her concerns about the existing system for serving the elderly. "Do you get to talk to these people? No!" Said Kliebert, " But that's the system we have in place now." Langley responded. "The system that does nothing! Deadheads on the payroll!"
The health deputy secretary assured those attending the forum the proposal is far from a done deal and will be taken up by the legislature.
Governor Bobby Jindal stands by the plan and says it would improve efficiency."We're not reducing the funding. We're actually increasing funding in this area. So, this is an opportunity to make these programs more efficient, to obtain more federal dollars and grants."
Earlier this week, the governor fired the head of the Office of Elderly Affairs after she criticized his budget plans for the agency.