North Carolina’s older population and the need for state action growing

This post is part of a series on the state budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead.

By Mary Bethel – President, NC Coalition on Aging

raise the barThe Baby Boomers Are Here!  North Carolina is experiencing a significant increase in our older population as the state’s 2.4 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) have begun to enter the retirement age.  Today, 1 in 5 – over 2 million people – are age 60 and over and there are 170,000 people age 85+ living in the state.  By 2018, the state as a whole, and 90 of the 100 counties, will have more population 60 and over than age 0-17.

With this growth in the number of older adults comes an increased need for legislative action to help those who need assistance.  Many aging advocacy groups in the state, including the NC Coalition on Aging, a statewide alliance composed of agencies; organizations, groups and supporting individuals concerned with issues impacting older North Carolinians (www.nccoalitiononaging.org); are asking the General Assembly to appropriate funding for two priority areas.

Home and Community Block Grant

One of the most critical challenges facing older adults, particularly those at or near the poverty level who do not qualify for Medicaid, is assistance with services to help them remain independent and living in their community.  Since 1992, the Home and Community Care Block Grant, which combines federal and state dollars and local matching funds, has been the primary non-Medicaid funding source for in-home and community based services to aid older adults.  Key services funded by the Block Grant include home delivered and congregate meals, in-home aides, transportation assistance, and adult day care/adult day health care.

Unfortunately, the state is losing ground in its efforts to help older adults through the Block Grant.  In 2012 SFY, 65,174 seniors were served under the Block Grant.  In SFY 2015, the number receiving services dropped to 59,532 – a reduction of 5,642 older adults.

As the older population has increased and the cost of service delivery goes up, waiting lists for services remain large.  On March 1 of this year, 9,243 people were on the wait lists for Block Grant services.  The largest waiting lists were for home delivered meals and in-home aid services which are targeted to frail and home-bound individuals.

In the 2014 legislative session, the General Assembly cut the Block Grant by $969,549.  This funding was restored in 2015; however, it was made non-recurring.  Without legislative action this year, that funding will be lost.

The NC Coalition on Aging is asking the General Assembly to appropriate $2 million in recurring funding for the Block Grant.  An allocation of this amount could have a huge impact.  For example, 2,266 home-bound seniors could receive home delivered meals for a year or the waiting list for in-home aide services could be reduced by 1,200 frail older adults.

Adult Protective Services

A second key area where increased funding is urgently needed is for adult protective services.  North Carolina has mandatory reporting for adult protective services under NC General Statute 1008A, Article 6, and adult protective services is a mandated core service provided by county departments of social services.  County departments are charged with evaluating reports of adults 18 and older alleged to be abused neglected, and/or exploited.

There has been a 44% increase in adult protective services reports in the last five years.  In SFY 2009, 17,042 reports were received.  Of these, 9,252 were evaluated.  In SFY 2015, 24,545 reports were received, of which 12,121 were evaluated.  Seventy percent of those receiving adult protective services are 60 or over.

At this time, no state funding is appropriated for counties to provide adult protective services and existing resources are stretched to the limit with county workers taking on increasing caseloads of complex cases.  These challenges put some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens at increased risk.  The NC Coalition on Aging asks the General Assembly to appropriate $2 million for adult protective services.

(Source of Data – NC Division of Aging and Adult Services)

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North Carolina’s older population and the need for state action growing