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County Commission on Aging gets $50,000 grant

September 11, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Taking advantage of available resources soon will be easier for seniors and the disabled in Washington County.

The Maryland Department of Aging announced Monday that the county's Commission on Aging was selected for a program that gives residents a "one-stop shop" for questions about available services. Washington County is one of four counties statewide labeled a Maryland Access Point (MAP), said Donna Smith, project director for the state department.

Secretary Gloria G. Lawlah was in Hagerstown to make the announcement.

"People don't know where to go," said Ilene W. Rosenthal, Deputy Secretary for the state's Department of Aging.

While officials said it's unfortunate, a question often can result in phone calls to several agencies, and a lot of frustration. Rosenthal said that as an MAP site, Washington County's agencies - including the Commission on Aging, Department of Social Services, Health Department, Resources for Independence and others - will work together to give people the resources they need.

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"They'll be able to access the services they need, when they need them," she said.

Susan MacDonald, executive director of the Washington County Commission on Aging, said the nonprofit organization received a $50,000 state grant to hire and train staff who will be able to help people find the services they need. Additional staff at other sites, like the Health Department and Social Services, will have the same knowledge.

MacDonald said that the first strategic planning meeting for the project is this week, and she expects training to be in place by Nov. 1.

MacDonald said that about 20 percent of Washington County's population is 60 or older, meaning that about 28,000 seniors are eligible for services. Officials said that at least 25 percent of the county's residents are considered disabled.

Questions about long-term care for those residents, medical assistance, retirement facilities and other needs will be met by staff who have knowledge of all available resources in the county, state and local officials said.

As a MAP site, the county's agencies will offer those who need their services a more comprehensive approach to getting the information they need, officials said Monday.

A large part of the success of the program will be based on staff awareness, Washington County Health Officer Earl Stoner said. Sometimes staff from various agencies can have "tunnel vision," he said, and only focus on what that agency can offer.

"We do X, and we're not asking if you need A, B and C," he said.

Lawlah said the goal is to have a MAP site in every county in Maryland and in Baltimore City. Howard County was the first in Maryland to have a site, followed by Worcester County on the Eastern Shore and Anne Arundel County.

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