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The Year Ahead

Last January, I started my new job as Acting Secretary of Aging, diving headfirst into what would be a busy, exciting year of accountability, collaboration and action on behalf of older adults in Pennsylvania. The Department of Aging and our many partners have much good work to be proud of from 2019 and even more to do in 2020. Here are just a few highlights that mark our past year and will help guide our actions and progress forward:

Our top legislative priority for 2019 was updating the Older Adult Protective Services Act (OAPSA), which has not been revised since its enactment in 1987. This critical update is necessary and will continue to be a priority for 2020. We’ve worked with legislators and stakeholders to provide necessary and meaningful updates to OAPSA through Senator Mensch’s Senate Bill 819 and Rep. Hennessey’s House Bill 1930.

Protecting older adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation is always our most urgent responsibility and we’ve worked hard to strengthen our protective services (PS) function. We’re collaborating with AAAs to draft a protective services chapter with new and updated policies and procedures. This will consolidate and modernize all existing aging program directives in PS to create a more easily digestible and searchable document for protective services workers to utilize. And in November, we hosted our largest (and, from feedback we’re getting, the most well-received) Protective Services Conference.

Responding to Governor Wolf’s Executive Order on Vulnerable Populations, we’ve collaborated with other state agencies and the AAAs to update our online Mandatory Abuse Reporting Training. The program will be able to track exactly who takes the training, which will allow for better verification of compliance during licensing visits. We are also completing a financial exploitation analysis to assess the overall impact financial exploitation of older adults is having on the commonwealth.

We worked on emergent issues, like listening to grandparents who are raising grandchildren as a result of the opioid crisis. Our Grandfamilies Workgroup helped to identify challenges and barriers these special families face in the health, human services, education, and legal systems. We were proud to help raise awareness and engage others to improve support on these issues. We also supported federal legislation introduced by Senator Casey to expand free school meal eligibility for children, including many who are living with grandparents, relatives or other caregivers.

We’re building on our commitment to create a Pennsylvania that is friendly to LGBTQ older adults by working to address issues raised at the 2018 LGBTQ Aging Summit. This has included building partnerships with advocacy organizations, and providing SAGECare training for PDA employees, positioning PDA to become the first SAGECare certified Department of Aging in the country.
 
Our PACE/PACENET Programs continue to earn their reputation as some of the most effective, efficient programs in the commonwealth, providing prescribed medications to qualified low income individuals, conducting education and outreach to help eligible older adults get medications and other benefits, and helping to curb inappropriate drug use. Since Act 87 raised PACENET income limits by $4,000, 19,200 new enrollees have come into the program as of October 2019.Valuing these programs as we do, we’ll be advocating and partnering in 2020 to protect Pennsylvania’s Lottery from being compromised by the current threat of illegal gaming.

PDA is collaborating with the Department of Community and Economic Development to engage our partners and help make older Pennsylvanians aware of the Census 2020 process and the vital importance of their participation.  More about Census 2020 is in this issue of Inside Aging.

In 2020, we’ll update our State Plan On Aging – this 4-year plan will be our blueprint for how we’ll meet our federally mandated responsibilities, respond to emergent issues, and most importantly, lead the way in providing the best possible service, support and opportunities for a growing, diverse older population.

There’s so much more.  We’re working to create a dementia-friendly, age-friendly Pennsylvania by collaborating with national and statewide partners to support training, build awareness and promote action among community stakeholders. Working with the Pennsylvania Association of AAAs, we’ve developed a new Learning Management System website. Our SHARE program, which matches homeowners wishing to stay in their homes with those needing a home, was piloted in Pike, Wayne and Monroe counties and will be expanded to other counties in 2020. Our Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman presented nationally on their resident-directed ombudsman work. And in 2019 PDA established its presence on social media. Did you know that PDA is now on Facebook? Make sure you follow us, share our posts and join the conversation!

Finally, from a planning session last summer, we developed a new mission and vision for PDA.  Our mission is to promote independence, purpose and well-being in the lives of older adults through advocacy, service and protection.  Our vision is a Pennsylvania where older adults are embraced and empowered to live and age with dignity and respect. I start this new year and new decade dedicated to both our mission and vision – and I am confident in our ability to achieve them when we work together. 

 
Sincerely,


 

Robert Torres
Secretary of Aging
Census 2020:  Be a good neighbor and spread the word. 

This year marks our decennial census starting April 1, 2020. It’s essential that we all work to ensure that each and every one of our older adults is counted in whatever setting they may be living. The Department of Aging is working with the state’s census effort to reach older adults through our many community partnership channels.

The centerpiece of information about the effort in Pennsylvania is www.pa.gov/census. The site explains the census process, timeline and provides resources for organizations and individuals to get involved.

Residents can respond to the form by mail, by phone, and for the first time ever, online. Most households will receive their census invitation in the mail by April 1, 2020. Most households will receive their census invitation in the mail, but about 5% of households will get their invitation when a census taker drops it off.

Pennsylvania’s census count will affect how many seats we hold in Congress – and the next decade of federal spending, policy, and decision-making. In fact, Pennsylvania receives $26.8 billion annually for federally-funded programs. That’s about $2,000 per Pennsylvanian each year. Federal funding supports many programs and services for Pennsylvanians, including those serving older adults such as Medicaid, Medicare Part B, Nutrition Services and SNAP.

With this much at stake, our aging population needs to hear from trusted sources that their participation in the U.S. Census benefits their community whether they live with family, receive in-home care, or reside in a senior living community or home.

Recognizing the importance of making sure older adults are accurately represented in the census count, the campaign has developed a poster representing the diverse aging population across Pennsylvania. To download the poster, visit www.pa.gov/census, as well as other materials, click on “Support Your Community,” scroll to the bottom where you will see “General Awareness: Posters, Flyers & Postcards.

Looking Back
  • Legislation - During the month of December, the legislature did not consider any Aging-related legislation. 
  • Hearings - There were no relevant hearings held in December.
 
Looking Ahead
  • The House and Senate will both return to session on Tuesday, January 7, 2020.
  • There are no scheduled hearings at this time.
Recognizing Excellence in Protective Services

The 2019 Protective Services Conference, held in November, drew a record number of attendees to the Gettysburg Wyndham to hear about best practices and emergent issues from state and national experts.  Representation included the 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), Liberty Healthcare Corporation, the Departments of Aging and Human Services, multiple vendors and staff from other state agencies.

The highlight of this energized gathering was the recognition of exceptional work in the area of older adult protective services in the form of the Secretary’s Award for Excellence. This year, Lackawanna County’s Protective Services Team was the recipient of this prestigious award. Their collective dedication to and passion for protecting older adults from all types of abuse, their collaboration with other local partners toward the goal of elder justice, and their resourcefulness in ensuring necessary services are available to older victims of abuse made them a standout above all other well-deserving nominees.

Congratulations to Lackawanna County, and thanks to all participants for making this PS conference our best-attended, most well-received yet!
Department of Aging Secretary, Robert Torres presents the 2019 Secretary of Aging's Award for Excellence to Jason Kavulich, executive director of the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging.
The council update document has been revised to include all current council, workgroup, taskforce, and advisory board activity and is available on the Publications & Reports section of the aging website.
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