Senior services’ changes mapped

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Today residents across Belmont County will vote on a renewal levy that helps fund the senior services and programs wing of the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services.

Belmont County Commissioners recently announced at a meeting that they were looking to break off senior services from the DJFS and make it its own separate entity.

Dwayne Pielech, the current director of DJFS and the man who oversees Senior Services of Belmont County since it’s acquisition from Belmont County Senior Services, wanted to clear up any confusion about the move.

“I want to take this opportunity to reassure the seniors of Belmont County, and the public in general, that none of the programs will change,” Pielech said. “The only difference will be in the management structure and organization.”

Pielech noted the reluctance and mass of communications seniors had previously when it was announced that Belmont Senior Services, the private company that was contracted through the county to handle senior programs, was going to be replaced by DJFS.

The commissioners pitched the idea as a way to conserve senior funding and better use levy dollars to provide the best possible services available to the county’s seniors.

Pielech believes DJFS has done just that and now, this is the next logical step in the evolution of senior services for the county.

“We sat down and tried to solve a problem and, we believe we’ve been successful in doing that,” Pielech said. “The next step is to hand senior services over to a stand alone agency.

“The seniors demand accountability and visibility in communications and it’s getting tougher to do so given all the other duties DJFS has.

“And the seniors expect and deserve full-time visibility with the director of senior services.”

Pielech said the plan is to hire a director for the stand-alone operation, a fiscal administrator and possibly a few more positions. The idea being the new agency will focus solely on the seniors, instead of having its attention shared with children’s services, work force services, etc.

Pielech noted some of the changes that DJFS made in order to save levy dollars while still offering the same services available from BSS.

The county contracted out that in-home care to various agencies throughout the county.

Because it’s a government entity, DJFS has been able to increase medical transportation by working with local fire and EMS departments for transport thanks to having the ability to be able to bill Medicaid

“We serve between 35-50 seniors per day, in some cases, six days per week, with medical transport,” Pielech said. “And because of Medicaid, we can utilize outside services for an additional 75 seniors.

“That’s allowed us to save around $200,000 in medical transportation and enabled us to be more accessible and closer to on-demand transportation, which it wasn’t in the past.

“There isn’t the waiting lists there was in the past.”

Pielech said he’s looking for the transition to take place sometime after the first of the year.

“This will give us time for a smooth transition,” he explained. “The people that do the day-to-day work, that produce and drive the meals, drive the patients, none of that will change.

“It will be the same faces, the same dependable, reliable staff that the seniors have come to appreciate.

“The only changes will be a few at the upper level of management.”

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