ATLANTA (GA) – Aging parents of children with developmental disabilities often become frustrated as they go from one agency to another trying to plan for their children’s future. Soon, “one-stop shopping” resource centers in Atlanta and Augusta will provide comprehensive help for finding long-term care services for both seniors with physical disabilities and people of all ages with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities.
The centers will be funded with an $800,000 three-year grant from the federal Administration on Aging and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, awarded in April to the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR), Division of Aging Services (DAS). They will be operated by the Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) that serve the two cities: The Atlanta Regional Commission in Atlanta and the Central Savannah River Area Agency on Aging in Augusta. The centers will work in cooperation with local community organizations and the local offices of DHR’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases and Division of Family and Children Services. The resource centers will be phased in over the next three years.
The new resource centers will help consumers and family caregivers who need either public or private services, regardless of ability to pay. They will provide information, referrals, screening, assessment, crisis intervention, short-term case management until people are connected with services, and help with planning to meet people’s needs so they can continue living in their communities. An advisory group and a consumer task force were formed last year to guide the development of the centers.
“I am excited by this opportunity to help more families meet the challenges of providing long-term care for loved ones with disabilities,” says DHR Acting Commissioner Maria Greene. “Our ‘Gateway’ program already offers a comprehensive system for referring older people to services that help them remain in their homes instead of entering nursing homes prematurely. We will adapt this to include services for people with developmental disabilities.” Greene was formerly director of the Division of Aging Services and will return to that position when a new DHR commissioner takes office in mid-May.
Currently, 12 AAAs throughout the state provide information and referrals for older Georgians, while seven regional offices of DHR’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases provide information and referrals, primarily to public services, for people with mental disabilities. Most people with developmental disabilities are cared for at home by family members. In Georgia, more than 15,500 live in households with caregivers aged 60 or older, according to Greene.
After three years, the resource centers are expected to become self-sustaining. In addition to the centers in Atlanta and Augusta, the grant will support planning for resource centers in other areas of the state. “We also hope we can eventually make the centers’ services available to people of all ages,” says Greene.
For more information, contact Cathie Berger, Atlanta Regional Commission, 404/463-3100 or Jeanette Cummings, Central Savannah River Area Agency on Aging, 706/210-2013.
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