The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides aid and funding to organizations like the Osceola County Council on Aging, and 22,000 others like it around the country to the tune of $1.4 trillion dollars; that’s trillionwith a ‘T’.
Lance Robertson, the department’s assistant secretary, was in town Wednesday to pay the Council on Aging a visit, and research seniors’ quality of life here in Osceola County. He was joined by Karla Radka, the CEO and President of the Senior Resource Alliance.
While meeting with the COA’s board members — mostly made up of those who began as volunteers and are still helping the community after two decades or so — they explained why they get out into the field and visit facilities like like the Council on Aging, which they raved about.
“Those years of service, that’s phenomenal. It tells a story,” Robertson said.
“You are doing God’s work,” Radka said.
Robertson called the Council “An example of a shining star of the services that need to be replicated around the country.
“We have a bigger vision for Florida, and you are doing great things,” he told gathered board members. “What would the community be like without this center?”
And that Florida vision is important, as its number of elderly and special-needs residents is large — as many as the bottom 18 states combined.
“Those are two large growing cohorts, that are intermingling,” Robertson said. “When I want to make policy change, I run it by Richard (Prudom, Florida Secretary of Elder Affairs), because of the impact. One phone call equals 18 phone calls to serve the same number.
“Where you can help is to make sure at the highest level, decision makers appreciate the value of what we do. Your voices are more powerful than mine. When I’m trying to preach our cause, they know what I’m going to say, I’m paid to, but those in local service delivery … your voices are powerful. So I encourage you to reach out and create a relationship with your local, state and federally-elected officials. They get hammered, so be smart with your advocacy.”
Among his responsibilities is helping to keep older Americans in their homes and communities, helped through the distribution of federal funds. What he said he hopes to take back to Capitol Hill is the ability to tell how effectively the funds the federal government invests locally are being used here.
“For every dollar invested here, you’re probably seeing $10 or $15 returned in service to locals who want to stay in their homes and communities,” Robertson said.