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A message from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 8:39 pm    Post subject: A message from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
From Thu Jun 29, 2006 3:00 am to Sun Jul 02, 2006 2:59 am (included)
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Dear Dennis:

I am pleased to announce that the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee approved S. 3570, the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2006 , to reauthorize the Older Americans Act . As passed, this legislation includes three key provisions I introduced to assist seniors with their health care and mental health needs and brings increased emphasis to home and community based delivery of critical services. Originally enacted in 1965, the Older Americans Act is the major vehicle for the delivery of social and nutrition services to seniors. New York receives the third largest allocation of Older Americans Act funds, just behind California and Florida .

In less than ten years, the first wave of Baby Boomers will turn 65. We must consider how we will meet the increasing needs of this elder boom and the growing demands placed on our local, state, and federal health and social service systems in the years ahead . We must ensure that we are prepared to meet the needs of our growing senior population and one issue we must address is the long-term care crisis in our country resulting from the increasing longevity of Americans.

As the number of individuals in need of long-term care services rises, issues such as financing, quality of care, family involvement, quality of life, end-of-life care, and overall service delivery are growing in importance and impact. A lthough Medicaid now allows the provision of some home and community-based services and supports without federal permission, the program still lags behind, even when many seniors would be able to-and most times would prefer to-stay in their own homes. According to the AARP, more than 90 percent of older adults prefer to remain in their current residence as long as possible.

As we anticipate an increase in demand for long-term care services from the Baby Boom generation, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities or NORCs provide a critical and commonsense approach that recognizes the importance of community for positive and healthy aging, and of partnerships between the public and private sectors for offering a range of services-from social and health programs to educational, recreational and volunteer opportunities-that are diverse, flexible, and designed to engage as many community residents as possible.

Specifically, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee incorporated three of my initiatives in the Older Americans Act reauthorization, including:

1. Key components of The Community-Based Choices for Older Americans Act , which I introduced this April, to assist older Americans who are just above the Medicaid threshold to obtain supportive long-term care services and supports necessary to remain safely in their communities. This legislation and the "Choices for Independence Demonstration Projects" included in the Older Americans Act would provide seniors with the option, in collaboration with a service coordinator, to choose long-term care services and supplies, such as a wheel chair ramp, assistance with grocery shopping or cooking, or adult day care services, based on their preferences and needs. One of the key concepts from my legislation that has been included in this grant program is targeting individuals at greatest risk for spending down to Medicaid. This approach not only respects the wishes of older adults, but also reduces the financial burden on Medicaid and local taxpayers. This grant program builds on activities already underway at the Administration on Aging (AoA).

2. My proposal to establish a national grant program to support Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) and make a concept pioneered in New York a permanent part of the national strategy for helping older adults age with dignity. Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) are defined geographic areas not originally built for seniors but that over time become home to a large concentration of older people, such as a neighborhood or apartment complex. As incorporated into the Older Americans Act , my proposal would provide state grants for the development of model aging in place projects for older individuals, with a preference given to NORC programs. According to the AARP, as many as 25 to 36 percent of seniors live in NORCs. There are over 40 officially recognized Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities - Supportive Service Programs ( NORC-SSPs ) operating across New York State, including programs in Albany, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Plainview, Rochester, Syosset and Troy.

3. Key components of the Positive Aging Act , a bill that Senator Collins and I reintroduced last year to address the gap in mental health services for older Americans. The "Multidisciplinary Health Services in Communities" program would provide competitive grants to states for developing and operating systems that deliver mental health screening and treatment services to older individuals who lack access to these services. These grants would also be used for programs to increase public awareness about the benefits of prevention and treatment of mental disorders in older individuals and to reduce stigma and age-related discrimination associated with these disorders. Older adults have the highest rates of suicide in the nation and depression is the foremost risk factor. My grant program is a way to help the nearly 20 percent of older Americans who experience mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.

We face an important yet exciting challenge as we prepare our country for the aging boom. What we are doing to prepare for this challenge through reauthorization of the Older Americans Act today will have a tremendous impact on our systems of care tomorrow . I am grateful to my colleagues for their commitment to this process and for their support of the new initiatives on long-term care, NORCs and the Positive Aging Act that I have worked with my colleagues to include in this bill.

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
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