Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approves Area Plan on Aging

September 29, 2016

Rebecca Miller addresses the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a plan that will guide how the Department of County Human Services provides comprehensive and coordinated services to older adults in Multnomah County. 

Among the plan’s major goals are improving access to and utilization of health systems and community services; supporting services for family caregivers; and ensuring that transportation is easy to access.

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the plan “gives us a good roadmap for how we can go forward in the future.”

The Aging, Disability, and Veterans Services Division of DCHS prepares a four-year Area Plan as part of its requirements as an Area Agency on Aging under the Older Americans Act.

The division’s primary goal is to help older adults and adults with disabilities live as independently as possible by providing a range of services, some directly and others under contract with community agencies.

The Area Plan describes the agency’s efforts to identify the needs of older adults, adults with disabilities, and their caregivers and establishes a strategy for developing coordinated and accessible systems of care to prioritize and develop services for that group. The plan must receive state approval before it can take effect in January.

The details of the Area Plan were informed by public input, including 18 public listening sessions and two public hearings in the spring and summer of 2016, DCHS senior manager and senior program specialist Erin Grahek and Rebecca Miller told the board. The listening sessions drew 474 people and 2,348 comments. A majority of the attendees, 68 percent, were non-native English speakers and 89 percent were from non-mainstream groups including the LGBT community. 

Rebecca Miller and Erin Grahek present Area Plan on Aging to Multnomah County Board of Commissioners

During the listening sessions, attendees were asked what issues were important to them, what was working well and what areas were in need of more focus.

Among the findings was that racial, ethnic and cultural minorities are less likely to access county services or have awareness of the resources available, Miller said.

“Language is a barrier for non-English speakers navigating health, transportation and other systems,” Miller said. “And they’re relying on community based organizations like our culturally specific providers to get all their needs met, not just the ones we’re contracting for.”

That discovery led to the goal of improving countywide access to and utilization of services by racial, ethnic and cultural minorities and other underserved groups of elders that addresses the social determinants of health and/or forge links between health systems and community services.

Other goals are:

  • Ensure that older adults have ready access to healthy, affordable food
  • Promote access to family caregiver services and resources
  • Ensure that older adults and people with disabilities have access to protection against abuse, financial exploitation and neglect
  • Increase accessibility to culturally specific services and support the needs identified by Native American elders
  • Improve coordination of health system care
  • Develop a system that provides services and supports to people with multiple needs who do not fit into one system
  • Provide readily available, easily navigable transportation coordination and resources

“What a rich document,” Commissioner Judy Shiprack said of the plan, which can be viewed in its entirety here. “It is something that can inform and assist this board in making decisions about a growing demographic on a fixed income.”