Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting testimony before the Committee on Housing and Community Development and Chairperson Anita Bonds on the Performance of the District of Columbia Office on Aging in Fiscal Year 2015 and Fiscal Year 2016 to date. Because I want you to know what we’ve accomplished in 2015, and where we’re headed in 2016, I’m providing a brief overview of my testimony.

Through the unwavering support and leadership of Mayor Muriel Bowser, the agency has had significant success in Fiscal Year 2015 and has set an ambitious agenda for Fiscal Year 2016.

Our major accomplishments in Fiscal Year 2015 involve improving collaborations and partnerships with private and public entities in order to better meet the needs of District seniors and people with disabilities.

To address nutrition needs for seniors most at risk of hunger, DCOA formed the Nutrition Task Force, comprised of government and community stakeholders. Through the Task Force, DCOA was able to implement a city-wide priority scale to categorize current clients and new referrals by need and risk of hunger.

To address long-term care access issues, DCOA strengthened its partnership with the Department of Health Care Finance. Through our partnership, we improved communication and outreach to seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers, and other professionals about long-term care options; streamlined access to long-term care; and expanded person-centered planning for Medicaid recipients.

To address the desire for people to age-in-place in the community, DCOA has improved its relationships with nursing homes and hospitals, helping to connect people to resources as they transition from institutional settings back to a community-based setting. DCOA also provides consultations to nursing homes and hospitals on discharge planning issues – particularly for people with complex medical needs or other issues that might make the discharge planning process more difficult.

To promote and enhance the development of senior villages across the District, DCOA published the first ever “how to” guide to support organizations interested in replicating villages in the District. We also provided technical assistance, tools, resources, and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange opportunities to the entire DC-based village network.

To address concerns about accessing senior transportation, DCOA replaced “Call-N-Ride,” a subsidized paper coupon system for low- to moderate-income residents, with the ConnectorCard, which is a DCOA-subsidized debit card. ConnectorCard is an award-winning program recognized as an innovative transportation mode that offers choice, flexibility and broader access without a reservation.

In alignment with the Bowser Administration’s goals and priorities, DCOA will review internal and external accountability measurements this fiscal year. Everything that DCOA does including grants, contracts, and staffing will be reviewed to improve efficiency and effectiveness of our programs and services that our residents rely on. We must first find out the true needs and wants of our seniors, and then ask whether those needs and wants are being met by the District – by DCOA or another sister agency.

To that end, DCOA has issued a request for a needs assessment to review current aging programs, senior centers and wellness facilities, and other programming specific to seniors within the District. Core programming needs will be identified to drive funding allocation decisions across programs and by ward. The assessment will serve as a strategic road map to help meet seniors where they are, rather than requiring them to meet us where we are.

This year, DCOA partnered with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to provide a grant of up to $10,000 for accessibility modifications to reduce the risk of falls and reduce barriers that limit mobility for District seniors and adults with disabilities. Since the launch in January, over 300 calls were received from residents and caregivers.

Mayor Bowser gave us a very clear mandate: make this program work. And make it nimble. I’m proud to say that we’ve done so, and the District is once again an innovator and leader in senior services.

I am pleased with the accomplishments from last year, and I know we still have serious work ahead to make sure that we are meeting the needs of District residents. With the support of Mayor Bowser, I am confident that we are well-positioned to meet the needs of the District’s seniors and people with disabilities, and we look forward to our continued partnership to make DC an age friendly city!

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