Dare’s commissioners hear recommendations from Senior Tar Heel Legislature

Published 6:41 am Friday, August 11, 2023

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Dare’s commissioners received a report on recommendations from the Senior Tar Heel Legislature.

Delivering the report on July 17, 2023 were Dare delegate to the legislature Kaye White and alternate delegate Sue Kelly.

Representatives from across the state gather three times a year in a unicameral body to consider the needs of the state’s older adults and make recommendations to the North Carolina General Assembly to address those needs.

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North Carolina ranks ninth nationally in total population and eighth in the number of people over age 65. For 2022, the Census Bureau estimates that people 65 years of age and older make up 24.5% of Dare County’s population.

North Carolina’s Senior Tar Heel Legislature is promoting five legislative priorities to the current General Assembly. During discussion following the presentation, Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard indicated that the commissioners would reach out to the county’s lobbying firm regarding the five legislative priorities developed by the Senior Tar Heel Legislature.

2023-2024 Legislative Priorities from the North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature

#1 Allocate An Additional $8 Million In Recurring Funds For Adult Protective Services To Address Staff Shortages

The Senior Tar Heel Legislature recommends that the NC General Assembly allocate these funds to add much-needed staff, in keeping with the growth of the older adult population and the rise in abuse complaints.

Adult Protective Services are funded through a portion of the federal social services block grant and county budgets. North Carolina provides no funding for this service, states the Senior Tar Heel Legislature information.

In fiscal year 2020-21, Adult Protective Services units received 32,075 reports of abuse.

Counties report on average needing two additional full-time Adult Protective Services staff, states the Tar Heel Legislature.

#2 Increase The Senior Center General Purpose Appropriation By $1,265,316 In Recurring Funds.

Senior center general purpose funding is currently $1,265,316, which is not meeting the demands of a growing older adult population.

The Senior Tar Heel Legislature recommends that the NC General Assembly allocate $500,000 of that new money evenly to counties for administrative costs and $765,316 for the Division of Aging and Adult Services certification program to increase allocation to each senior center.

In northeast North Carolina, the following county programs are listed in the state’s directory for senior centers:

Currituck County: Currituck County Senior Center, 130 Community Way, Barco

Dare County: Virginia S. Tillett Community Center, a Senior Center of Excellence, 950 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo.

Thomas A. Baum Senior Center, 300 Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills

The Fessenden Center, 46830 NC 12, Buxton

Hyde County: Mattamuskeet Senior Center, 160 Juniper Bay Road, Swan Quarter

Tyrrell County: Tyrrell County Senior Center, 406 Bridge Street, Columbia

#3 Allocate An Additional $8 Million In Recurring Funds For The Home and Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG)

This grant funds community-based services such as home-delivered meals, adult care, transportation, senior centers, in-home aide to help older adults remain in their homes as long as possible. These supports help prevent more costly interventions, such as assisted living or nursing home facilities.

These services are not “means-tested,” meaning they are not based on income, but are based on need determined by objective home assessment conducted by county-based employees.

These services are not provided through Medicaid or Medicare.

Currently, 10,000 North Carolinians are on waiting lists for these programs.

#4 Allocate An Additional $1.5 Million In Recurring Funds For 11 Additional Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman

In the long-term care setting, ombudsman are state-trained individuals whose function is to uphold the rights of residents in long-term care facilities.

North Carolina has more than 90,000 long-term care beds. Industry standards recommend one ombudsman for every 2,000 beds, translating to 45 full-time positions. Currently, 34 positions are filled. Additional funds for 11 positions would meet best practice staffing levels.

The current state appropriation for this program is $918,800.

The Albemarle Commission’s ombudsman program covers a 10-county region, which includes Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties. There are 25 nursing homes, adult care homes and family care homes in this region. On the Albemarle Commission’s website, Melissa Hines is listed as the ombudsman for the region. Her phone number in Hertford is 252-404-7086.

#5 Strengthen Long-Term Care Staffing Standards

The positive relationship between staffing levels and the quality of nursing home care has been demonstrated widely over many years of research. It is proven that increasing nurse staffing levels enhances the outcomes of nursing homecare.

Federal law requires Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty at least eight hours per day, seven days per week; and a licensed nurse (RN or licensed practical nurse) on duty 24 hours per day. In North Carolina, no minimum staffing levels for nurse’s aides or certified nurse assistants are provided.

In a nursing home, the certified nurse assistant provides the one-on-one care to the resident, such as bathing, toileting, grooming, feeding and all other personal care functions for the resident.

The Senior Tar Heel Legislature is recommending that North Carolina establish nursing home patient-to-staff ratios for certified nurse assistants that supports a quality standard of care for residents in these facilities.

With the absence of defined staffing standards, North Carolina ranks 43rd nationally in hours of care provided daily to nursing home residents, states Senior Tar Heel Legislature information.