By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FONDA -- Several Montgomery County agencies are planning to form a committee that will meet regularly to discuss issues involving the county's senior population and ways to enhance services.
Representatives from the county departments of Social Services and Office of Aging, St. Mary's Hospital and County Executive Matthew Ossenfort met earlier this week to find ways for the agencies to work together moving forward.
"Each entity, whether it be the Office for Aging, St. Mary's Hospital or DSS provides a variety of services for the seniors in the county and we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page," Ossenfort said. "We set up a plan to have regular meetings to work together and work out issues we may have."
The plan is for the committee to meet quarterly to update one another on what is going on in each agency, update contact information, provide helpful information, and to discuss complex cases that are being shared.
DSS Commissioner Michael McMahon said many of the cases involving seniors are handled by multiple organizations because they involve homelessness and mental health issues.
"It requires that we communicate more or often to resolve the issue," McMahon said. "So it is good to get the key players in a room on a regular basis so we can network among each other and keep each other up to speed."
McMahon said in years past, the agencies met monthly, but then the meetings fell by the wayside and communication between the departments grew less frequent.
He said one of the biggest issues he sees is that the agencies are constantly in transition, with new employees coming in and others being promoted. Therefore, points of contact are changing, which can lead to misinformation for the seniors.
"Sometimes we expect to talk to the same person that we talked to last year but that is not the case. Our clients get in the same routine. They expect to talk to the same person that they talked to months ago," he said. "We are in a huge transition right now in medical care. These things are changing rapidly and we can keep each other up to speed."
David Jordan, executive director of the Office of Aging, said by meeting regularly, the agencies may be able to streamline the process for seniors so they can get the resources they need quickly. It will also reduce the chances of seniors' concerns falling through the cracks.
For example, when a homeless senior, who upon leaving St. Mary's Hospital, is directed to DSS for housing. That agency will later direct him or her to the homeless shelter in Amsterdam.
Since the hospital is located in Amsterdam, the senior should go directly to the homeless shelter rather than make an unnecessary trip to Fonda, Jordan said.
"The biggest benefit about this is everyone realized that if we don't deal with a situation right away we aren't helping anyone. The worst thing that can happen is if a senior falls through the cracks, gets frustrated, and stops calling," he said. "This is making sure that we are getting more immediacy when something needs to be addressed. If we do have to deal with a situation right away we are going to be equipped to deal with it."