The demand for social services in Delta County is seen growing, and the trend is expected to continue, reports Chuck Lemoine, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
Department caseloads for elder care, adult protective services, medical assistance and food assistance are already at record-high levels and/or are showing upward trends.
During the department’s monthly report to the county commissioners, Lemoine noted an increase of 23 new referrals to the Options for Long Term Care program (OLTC).
The OLTC program works to find ways to keep elderly in living arrangements other than nursing homes; for instance, in-home care with a private agency, or family-assisted living. The county case-load of 284 in the program last year had risen to 322 last month.
Average nursing home costs can easily run $6,700 per month, Lemoine reported, and in-home care is seen as a more economical option.
Nursing homes are among the medical providers paid through the federal Medicaid program. Direct federal Medicaid payments to county health providers have reached as high as $1.7 million in a month, and they consistently average $1.2 million to $1.5 million monthly.
Caseloads for the HHS staff are also increasing in the adult protective services unit, particularly with the advent of mandatory reporting of elder abuse for those over 70 years of age.
Food assistance remains at record-high levels, too; over 2,000 households are now enrolled. The number is 10 percent higher than a year ago.
The HHS department is working with other county departments on reshuffling work space in the North Fork Annex building to better facilitate the workloads.
Lemoine has also drawn the commissioners’ attention to a growing work burden on his department’s staff at a time when the BoCC is hesitant to pledge uncertain county revenue streams to new permanent hiring.