Kazmirski takes helm at Belmont County Senior Services
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Senior Services welcomed Lisa Truchan Kazmirski when she officially took over the agency Friday, following a sendoff for outgoing director Dwayne Pielech.
Kazmirski said she looks forward to helming the many programs and services the agency offers to the county’s senior citizens.
Kazmirski commended Pielech for his work in leading the agency through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and obtaining more than $400,000 in state and federal grants to help expand services and programs. The agency also avoided a COVID-19 outbreak among staff, which could have proven disastrous to services.
“I’m excited to be here, and I’m very impressed with how well the administrators and the staff manage the operation here,” she said. “The staff cares about the seniors in this county, and it’s obvious by how they get through each day. Day after day it’s a smooth operation. … It’s very refreshing to be in a place where everyone is working toward the same goal.”
Kazmirski looks forward to visiting all of Belmont County’s 11 senior centers and meeting the area seniors she will be serving. She added she is interested in hearing their input and needs.
“I think the seniors need assurance that just because the director changed, it won’t negatively impact them, and that’s my main goal, for them to understand we’re only looking at increasing services, not eliminating any services,” she said. “I want to go out, reassure them, answer their questions and move on from there. The seniors themselves need to offer us ideas for what they want to see in their centers.”
Pielech, who is resuming work in the private sector, said the agency is in good hands.
“She’s got a lot of experience with public administration, dealing with the public, dealing with older Americans,” Pielech said, adding the pandemic will make planning for the future an additional challenge. “A constant concern, especially for an organization like ours, is how this pandemic will continue to impact seniors. Our challenge is to create programs that can keep them safe and healthy in their homes.”
He thanked the county commissioners for their support in modernizing and upgrading the agency and expanding services.
In the future, Kazmirski said one key focus is community partnerships to bring services to the senior centers, since many seniors remain uncomfortable going to other sites.
“I’ve only been here two weeks. However, in that short amount of time I’ve taken a lot of input from the administrators, the managers, some of the employees, and I think the important thing is to partner with as many other agencies in the community who can provide services and support to our seniors, and do that in such a fashion as no one is excluded and we make sure all the seniors can get and can be eligible for are made available to them,” she said. “I don’t think anything’s solidified at this point. There are a lot of talks going on with area health providers.”
This includes East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry. Senior Services has entered into a partnership with WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital to provide services such as blood draws for laboratory work and health checkups at senior centers.
“I think they’re (EORH) more than willing to partner with us,” she said. “Once we solidify those agreements and the business arrangement, I think the seniors will see some new and fresh ideas coming their way.”
Another issue is maintaining the agency’s fleet of vehicles. This is of particular importance since meal delivery and medical transportation services have expanded during the pandemic. In mid-November, the industry-wide shortage of microchips and other parts led to the commissioners rescinding a bid award for two Hotshot vehicles with meal delivery package for $123,118. The vehicles are going back out to bid.
“It’s important that our fleet continues to roll,” Kazmirski said, adding the agency is reaching out to providers. She hopes to take more steps at the beginning of 2022 to evaluate the state of vehicles and which are in need of replacement. “Right now, our obstacle is local dealerships having the availability of cars.”
Kazmirski added meal delivery and other transportation services may expand in 2022, but the demand will tell.
“I think as COVID kind of lets up on the area, we should be able to offer more. We should be able to bring more people into the centers. Right now, the home-delivered meals has increased because of the pandemic, but we need to make sure we continue to increase home-delivered meals whether there’s a pandemic or not.”