The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 2, 2013

Program for senior meals caught in funding conflict

JOPLIN, Mo. — Meals delivered to her Joplin home each weekday “have been a lifesaver,” said June Maddy Blalock.

“The doctor said I wasn’t getting enough protein,” said Blalock, who has been receiving food delivered by volunteers from the Joplin Senior Center for more than two years.

“This helps keep me on my feet, and I’m determined to do that,” she said. “That’s why the meals are so important.”

Blalock said she’s concerned that other seniors may not be able to get the help she receives. Local legislators and an advocate for the elderly in the area say funding withheld from senior programs is placing at risk a population that can least afford it.

It started with federal sequestration, which cut federal funding for the Region 10 Agency on Aging by 4 percent, according to Stan Heater, AAA executive director. He said the agency absorbed most of the cuts by trimming its family caregiving program and an ombudsman post that worked primarily as a monitor of the care seniors receive in nursing homes.

No cuts were made in home-delivered meals, but Heater said the agency did have to cap the program at current levels. For the past three months, local residents who might want to get on the program have been added only if someone else drops off to create a vacancy.

In the AAA region — Jasper, Newton, Barton and McDonald counties — 284,000 meals are served to seniors each year, with 184,000 by home delivery and 100,000 at senior centers.

Heater said he saw light at the end of the tunnel when the Missouri General Assembly increased the budget for the home-delivered meals program by $440,000 in the session that ended in mid-May.

“That would have filled the hole we had from sequestration and covered our cost increases,” he said. “Now, most of that money has been withheld by the governor, and we won’t know until September whether we’ll get it or not.”

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