Legislation would restore Office of Health Aging

Legislation would restore Office of Health Aging

April 29, 2022 0 By Brent Addleman

Transforming state services for seniors is the focus of a new bill circulating in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

House Bill 7616, known as The Aging Your Way Act, would work to restore the Office of Health Aging to full state department status while giving expanded authority to the director of the office. The bill would also appoint local senior centers as places for service delivery for seniors, and direct billing for transportation to Medicaid.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson, D-Newport, and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown, has been sent to the House Finance Committee.

“With the baby boomers rapidly increasing the ranks of our seniors every year, it’s time Rhode Island starts making a greater, more deliberate commitment to senior services. Community supports encourage an active, more fulfilling lifestyle for people as they age, and they are far more cost-efficient than institutional alternatives,” Carson, the bill’s primary sponsor, said in the release. “We aren’t taking full enough advantage of the existing network of senior centers operating around the state, where the staffs know the population, the services they need and the local places that provide them.

“The state should partner more closely with senior centers to create the vibrant, responsive system of services that we need to really make the quality of life much better for the entire older population of our state.”

Ruggiero said the state “needs to do more for our older citizens who want to age in place.

“That means better aging policy and services for our 65-plus citizens,” Ruggiero said. “We have an ‘age wave’ in this state where 1 in 4 people will be 65-plus in the state over the next several years, and we need to start framing policy and having the conversations that take our older citizens out of the shadows and put them at the forefront with home-based care, transportation and affordable housing like accessory dwelling units.”

Under the bill, if enacted, the Department of Healthy Aging would be created to protect and enable older residents to remain healthy and living independently. The program would provide meals, health programs, transportation, counseling and more.

Also incorporated into the bill, according to the release, is professional development for agencies and programs working with the department to bolster programs while acting as a clearing house to aid businesses and agencies who work with senior centers.

The legislation would also have the department develop and manage a transportation system in cooperation with the Department of Human Services and the Department of Transportation for a plan that benefits the elderly population.

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