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Jerry Shelby represents Rowan at NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature

CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature met Oct. 2-3 for its final meeting of 2018.

Committees discussed resolutions and established priorities for the next two years. The group heard updates on budget cuts to programs for older adults and the importance of advocating on behalf of older adults in the community.

Jerry Shelby is the Rowan County delegate to the Senior Tar Heel Legislature. He serves on the legislation issues and resolutions committees.

Each county has one delegate.

The resolutions committee identifies benefits, expenditures and financial returns, sets priorities and presents resolutions to the N.C. General Assembly for consideration to be passed into law.

The Senior Legislature encourages involvement and advocacy on aging issues, provides information to senior adults and the general public on issues before the General Assembly, and makes recommendations to the assembly on legislative needs of senior North Carolinians.

It was established by the legislature in 1993. A 25-year celebration was held at the recent meeting. Shelby was recognized for 15 years representing Rowan County.

The legislature voted to adopt five priorities out of 26 resolutions submitted this year. The 2019-20 legislative priorities that will be presented to the General Assembly in 2019 are:

• Increase Home and Community Care Block Grant Funding to assure the availability of cost-effective home- and community-based services for the elderly. The current system is considered insufficient to meet the needs of those seeking services. About 10,000 seniors are on the waiting list for services through the grant program.

• Increase funding for senior centers to meet needs of the state’s growing older adult population.

• Strengthen and fund North Carolina’s Adult Protective Services program. Last year, more than 24,000 adults were victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The legislature provides no funding for the APS program.

• Re-establish the Study Commission on Aging, which evaluated the delivery of services to older adults and recommended improvements that would meet current and future needs. The General Assembly eliminated the commission, creating an information gap between adults needing assistance and organizations that could help, according to the Senior Legislature.

• Expand Project CARE (Caregiver Alternative to Running on Empty), which provides respite services to family members who are caring at home for a relative with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.

The Senior Legislature also approved a resolution to increase funding for the organization. The General Assembly has cut funding by 66 percent over the 25-year existence of the advocacy group, even though costs have more than doubled.

Shelby submitted 12 resolutions to the issues committees. They advocated for:

• Increased funding for community-based services for older adults to provide home-delivered meals, adult day care, in-home aid and other services that help impaired older adults stay in their homes. There are almost 10,000 people on the “no person left behind” waiting list for services.

• Increased funding for senior centers to provide programs and services that enhance the health and wellness of older adults, support independent living, and expand services for the growing older population.

• Establishing 24/7 community health care clinics to provide service for after-hour illnesses, emergencies and the uninsured to contain health care costs.

• Victims Rights and Assistance Bill to assist victims injured or taken advantage of, resulting in financial loss and/or inability to afford repair or medical treatment because of negligence or misconduct of another person or insurance company.

• Judicial reform to eliminate bias, provide oversight, improve efficiency, reduce waste, simplify, reduce errors, provide assistance to victims, and establish best-practices procedures.

• Establishing a prescription drug assistance program for low-income people and have the state and federal governments negotiate drug prices.

• Providing scholarships and assistance to students to study geriatrics and general medicine and locate in rural communities.

• Providing auto insurance discounts for seniors who take a driver safety refresher class.

• Expanding the Aging and Disability Community Resource Connection Program.

• Preserving Medicaid optional services for older and disabled adults.

• Aiding people with advance care documents and end-of-life planning.

• Developing an action plan for cities to develop senior-friendly neighborhoods or villages and affordable housing that will be the standard for other states to follow.

Mary Edwards of the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services reviewed the status of Senior Legislature priorities and compared them to other advocacy groups. She also presented a 25-year history of the Senior Legislature.

Alicia Blater, DAAS dementia services coordinator, presented growing concerns and described dementia senior-friendly communities.

Kristel Robinson, a research associate at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, presented statistics on the aging population, crash rates, fitness and age-related changes that may affect driving. She said there is a shortage of driver rehabilitation specialists to help determine when a person can resume driving after an accident or illness. Public transportation or alternative transportation is a challenge or nonexistent in rural communities, she reported.

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