COA increases services in 2021 despite pandemic

New senior center in the planning stages

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Osceola County Commission on Aging director Justin Halladay presented the organization’s annual report to the board of commissioners during its recent meeting. 

“As director of the COA, I wish to express my gratitude for all the assistance and support we have received from the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan and the county board of commissioners throughout 2021,” Halladay said in a letter to the board. “This past year will be remembered for the continued dedication of service from the COA through uncertain times. It will also be remembered for the promise of growth for even more services to the seniors of Osceola County.”

The first part of 2021 saw a continuation of the pandemic-caused service changes, with meal sites closed, however, they cautiously moved forward with planning activities that were cancelled the previous year, including fundraising and activities for seniors, Halladay said in the report. 

“In June our meal sites re-opened to in person dining, and it was fantastic to see the clients come back and spend time with each other,” he said. “The lack of socialization was prevalent during the time we were closed and showed how important it is for us to provide more of that type of service to our seniors.”

Over the past two years, the number of meals prepared/delivered has increased by 15,000, the report said.

“We are proud to say that not only did we meet the need, but it was accomplished without any interruption of services,” Halladay said. “Cross training employees along with an emergency operations plan helped keep the system moving when employees or drivers had to quarantine.”

According to the report, the number of home-delivered meals increased each year over the last three years, from 22,770 in 2019, to 30,170 in 2020 and 36,316 in 2021.

Although the number of congregate meals declined in 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic, the overall number of meals served to seniors steadily increased with totals of 34,554 in 2019; 42,329 in 2020; and 49,578 in 2021.

In addition to meal service, 818 hours of home health aide service was provided to 41 clients in 2021, assisting with activities of daily living that required “hands-on” care. Home health aide services are provided by a registered nurse, who assesses the client’s needs and completes a care plan. 

Allowable services include, but are not limited to, bathing and grooming, exercise, monitoring vital signs and medication usage and non-sterile dressing changes.

Homemaking service provided 3,102 hours of assistance to 185 clients, which consisted of performing household task to maintain a safe and adequate living environment for individuals with functional limitations. Those tasks generally include light housekeeping, meal preparation and laundry.

Other services included COA Lift Van transportation services, which provide 51 clients with 12,077 miles of transportation. The volunteer transportation service also provided 83,256 miles of service to 149 clients using their personal vehicles.

The COA social service coordinators helped seniors with Medicare open enrollment, reviewing drug plans with clients and counseling them, and were able to save the seniors of Osceola County $102,000. 

For some, that required changing the drug plan, and in other cases, it just meant changing the pharmacy where they obtained their prescriptions.

Medicaid and Medicare Assistance Program counselors are available through the COA to assist seniors during the open enrollment period. Additionally, Social Service Coordinators plan activities and programs for seniors throughout the year. 

“Although the pandemic caused some of the activities and plans to be cancelled, activities such as the Farmers Markets, Camp 911, Christmas Party and Badger Cruise were resounding successes,” Halladay said. “We look forward to 2022 for even more activities.”

The COA is funded by the county senior services millage, federal funding, state funding, program income, grants and fundraisers.

In 2021 the millage brought in $761,216, while federal funding was $274,795 and state funding was $203,299.

Program income, grants and fundraising brought in an additional $128,514.

“The fundraisers were a great success, bringing in over $15,000,” Halladay said. “The support of the community to help us with our mission is overwhelming.”

The following grants and donations were received from local businesses and individuals, as well as the fundraisers:

• United Way Grant — $12,000 

• Cargill Grant — $15,000 

• General Mills Foundation Grant — $10,000

• COA Golf Outing — $11,000 

• Individual & Business Donations — $64,473

• Baked Potato Sales — $2,689

• Christmas Dinner Concert — $500

Total revenue for the year was $1,542,540.28. Expenditures included operational expenses of $962,758; meal expenses of $341,512; home services expenditures of $160,977; and transportation expenditures of $44,756, totaling $1,510,000.

“For this past year, we set ambitious goals to maximize our productivity, encourage innovation and provide quality care,” Halladay said. “Even during this time, we have been able to expand our services and grow to meet the needs of our community. You have our commitment that we will work harder than ever to provide care with compassion, dignity and respect.”

In November, with support from the commissioners, the COA purchased the former Hersey Elementary School with plans to create a senior center.

“Our plan is to consolidate the COA administrative offices, kitchen and other services to this location,” Halladay said. “The building will be the Osceola County Senior Center, the first one of its kind in the county. It will bring a place where seniors can truly spend time with each other with activities, education and social services.”

Previously, in March 2020, the county purchased the former Harvest Assembly of God building on Upton Avenue in Reed City with the intention of renovating it for a COA meal site and EMS training facility.

Those plans were halted when estimates to renovate the building proved to be too costly.

For information about the Osceola County commission on Aging call 231-734-5599.