JOY Center forced to limit services; Agency’s operating budget suffers following reductions made across the state
Monica Duran, third from left, says the impact of state budget reductions has forced the Chaves County JOY Center Inc. to reduce staff hours and services and to start placing people on waiting lists. She and other members of the Roswell Commission on Aging discussed several items at a Thursday meeting. Other members of the Thursday panel, from left, are commissioner Robert McCrea, commissioner Bonnie Montgomery, Vice Chair Tom Dunlap, Creative Aging representative Clara Farah, Ph.D., from Ruidoso and commissioner Renee Swickard. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)
The Chaves County JOY Center Inc. has cut staff hours and offerings and will be placing people on waiting lists for services because of state budget reductions, the head of the group said Thursday at a Roswell Commission on Aging meeting.
Executive Director Monica Duran told the group of about 40 gathered at the Senior Circle on North Main Street that almost $52,000 had been cut from the agency’s operating budget in October when the state legislature met and instituted budget reductions of about 5.5 percent for all state-funded agencies.
“We had to look at our budgets and see how we could cut them,” Duran said.
So far, the agency has decided not to refill a senior employment specialist position that had been vacated when a person retired. In addition, each full-time staff member had their hours per week reduced by an hour to 38 a week, having already been cut to 39 hours a week in 2008.
She also said that, this fiscal year, they plan to cut the number of meals served county-wide in its four centers by about 2,000 and the number of meals delivered to homes by about 4,000. The agency also plans to reduce the “units” of transport service by 1,200.
Countywide, on an annual basis, she said, the group typically serves about 11,000 meals a month and has 24 regular adult day care clients, as well as numerous other “drop-ins.” It also provides about 23,000 units of transportation a year to doctor offices, pharmacies, shopping areas, exercise facilities, pet groomers and other such destinations. Medical-related trips now will have priority, she said.
“At this time, we are doing more fundraising,” she said about actions remedying the budget reductions, “but we aren’t going to be able to make up all of the shortfall. That’s why we’ve already started cutting and will be starting waiting lists.”
Duran said that seniors will now be put on waiting lists for meals, housekeeping assistance and adult day care services.
The JOY centers in Roswell, Midway, Hagerman and Lake Arthur receive federal and state funding as well donations from individuals, the United Way and other organizations. It will receive more than $300,000 in voter-approved state bond monies, but that money can only be spent for capital outlays such as vehicle purchases or building improvements.
Duran explained that she expects more budget cuts after the legislature meets in 2017 but has no idea what the amount of those might be at this point.
Lawyer Tom Dunlap, vice chair of the commission, urged people in the audience to ask their state legislators to support the JOY Center.
“When the governor and the legislature agree on across-the-board cuts, it hurts you,” he said, adding that he would prefer if budget reductions affected other projects and agencies in the state first.
“I have been on the (JOY Center) board for more than 20 years, and, in the beginning, we had the money we needed to cover the expenses we could justify,” Dunlap said. “Now it is fundraiser after fundraiser after fundraiser.”
Duran also talked about how she is working to obtain more representation on state boards for senior agencies in the southeastern part of the state and talked about her group’s plans to host a breakfast for elected officials so they can learn more about the agency’s programs and services.
The commission also discussed the effort to have the Alzheimer’s locator bracelet service re-started by the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, which discontinued an older version of the program a few years ago.
Commission member Renee Swickard said that she and fellow member Lynne Ybarra had met with Sheriff Britt Snyder, who also later met with Priscilla Lujan, southeastern regional manager of the Alzheimer’s Association of New Mexico. Snyder reportedly said he will consider reintroducing the program in cooperation with the Alzheimer’s Association if issues surrounding funding, training and scheduling of staff or volunteers can be resolved.
Lujan has worked with other county sheriff’s offices in recent years to provide the service. People with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other conditions that can cause wandering and disorientation are equipped with bracelets that will send their locations to sheriff’s offices if families or caretakers report them missing.
Commission members also talked about a news article alleging fraud by some personal care assistants paid for by Medicaid, the federal health care insurance for low-income people. Medicaid has allegedly paid some caretakers for work they actually did not perform. Duran said that anyone with Medicaid-funded care or household assistants should be sure to report problems and refuse to sign any paperwork indicating that a person worked when he or she actually did not perform the services.
Staff writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.