City generous with its support for seniors
STATE Deputy Health Director Susan Jackson's "Gathering Place" column yesterday
, regarding the Lanakila Meals on Wheels, implied that the city was responsible for the group's fiscal shortfall. In fact, the cause of the problem was the governor's late release of money appropriated by the Legislature, money that was available on July 1, 2006, but not released until November.
By contrast, the city has been very supportive of Lanakila Meals on Wheels. We've awarded $825,000 to $1 million a year to Lanakila. Mayor Mufi Hannemann has supported the annual March for Meals since its inception in 2005. He personally led the march this year at the invitation of the program, alongside Central Pacific Bank and Island Insurance which spearheaded the fundraising campaign.
Moreover, the city allocates $6 million a year in federal- and state-financed services for seniors. We partner with more than 15 nonprofit agencies to provide services to our kupuna, especially those who cannot live at home without assistance. Services include case management, bathing, chore and homemaker services, adult day care, transportation and attendant care, as well as home-delivered meals.
We also make available legal services for abused elders; community dining programs, nutrition counseling and education; housing assistance; health maintenance; and interpretation and translation services to help people live in their communities rather than institutions. We provide counseling, case management and respite care services to family caregivers, so they may continue to support their loved ones.
WE ARE pleased to see the attention being drawn to the need for more senior services. Thanks to the diligent and persistent efforts of community groups like the Hawaii Aging Advocates Coalition, Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans, AARP Hawaii, Kokua Council, Catholic Charities Hawaii and the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, we have secured the additional state funding for senior services. While we're appreciative of the enactment of Senate Bill 1916, which, as Jackson pointed out, provided additional money for services for the elderly, this legislation was not introduced by the state administration, but was the result of the combined efforts of these community groups and our legislators.
This year's Legislature deserves hearty congratulations for appropriating an additional $895,000. Rather than attempting to pin blame on the city, the Department of Health should instead be encouraging the governor to release this much-needed money on a more timely basis so that our hard-pressed nonprofit providers don't have to struggle to serve the elderly while they await their state support.
Debbie Kim Morikawa is the director of the city Department of Community Services.