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GCOA Outlines the Wins and Losses for Older Georgians
Aging Advocates Tirelessly Fought For Wins
Atlanta, GA March 30, 2017 We are excited to report to the 1.3 million Georgia seniors that your advocates, your governor, and your legislative supporters worked hard at the capitol this year to help improve your lives, declared Georgia Council on Aging Chair Vicki Johnson. Georgia's senior population gained more than $13 million in new funds for increased services and protections for Older Georgians. These wins come after tireless work by advocates. The Governor added $4.2 million to reduce waiting lists for in-home care, $750,000 in funding for senior meal programs and $250,000 for a rate increase for meals providers. The Governor also added $766,000 for additional Adult Protective Service workers who investigate the abuse of the elderly and disabled.
The House and Senate added funding in two key areas: to fight elder abuse and to aid those living with Alzheimer's. Over $2 million was added to increase the salaries of those who monitor nursing homes in the state and over $100,000 was added for a prosecutor to help put abusers in jail. After education and advocacy by the Alzheimer's Association and Emory University, the House and Senate added $1 million to the Medicaid home care program for Alzheimer's patients and $4.12 million to create the Georgia Alzheimer's Project. According to Ginny Helms with the Alzheimer's Association, we hope that this will provide an accessible means of early, accurate diagnosis, especially for those in rural and other under-served communities.
The last hours of the session on March 30 saw the passage of House Bill 154, a bill to improve access to dental care sponsored by Rep Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta). Last year this bill received plenty of attention after the Georgia Dental Association disagreed with the Georgia Dental Hygienists Association about the bill. This year Cooper and Rep Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) brokered a compromise that both groups could support. House Bill 154 will allow dentists to send their hygienists to clean teeth in nursing homes and other safety-net settings without the dentist being on site. This will improve access to oral health care for residents.
The Family Care Act, another key bill for Georgia's seniors, passed after six years of work on the issue. SB 201, sponsored by Sen Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), will allow employees with accrued sick leave to use up to five days to care for a parent, grandparent, or grandchild. The Family Care Act will help caregivers maintain their employment while still caring for their loved ones who are ill.
The legislature also passed HB 221 sponsored by Rep Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) which spells out the boundaries, expectations and duties for those granted a power of attorney. It would also define when breakdowns in that agreement constitute a crime. This legislation was prompted by cases of abuse in Georgia.
Last year aging advocates added abuse, neglect, and exploitation to the Certified Nurses Aide registry to help combat elder abuse. This year advocates proposed a more comprehensive abuser registry. This registry would list caregivers who have committed elder abuse and include those who do not show up on official background check. Aging advocates are working with their partners from the state and private industry to create a solution for next session.
Transportation is ranked by seniors as one of their biggest challenges. Aging advocates asked for funding to test innovative programs that help seniors solve the transportation problem. Funding would have allowed communities to tailor programs to meet their specific needs. In some areas of the state model programs partner with companies like Uber and Lyft. In more rural communities have offered vouchers to family members or friends who were able to offer transportation to seniors. Aging advocates were unable to secure additional transportation funding this year but will continue to find ways to address the need.
Congratulations to the 2017 Distinguished Older Georgian, Ann Williams