Social Services: More funding needed for Companion Program

Published 3:44 pm Monday, September 30, 2019

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A locally funded Social Services program that provides in-home assistance to adults with disabilities may run out of money before the end of the current fiscal year.

Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors had authorized roughly $50,000 in seed money at the beginning of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which started July 1, so that its Department of Social Services could start the initiative known as the Companion Program. But, according to the county’s Social Services director Reynold Jordan, another $56,900 is needed to continue providing the same level of service through the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30, 2020.

There are only nine people who have been approved to receive services through the program, with another 24 on a waiting list for evaluation. To qualify, individuals must be over 60, or over 18 with a disability, meet income requirements and demonstrate via a functional needs evaluation that there are household tasks they are unable to do.

At the Board of Supervisors direction following its Sept. 5 work session, Isle of Wight County’s Department of Social Services canvassed the county’s churches and non-profit organizations for recommendations of others who may be eligible, which resulted in another 62 added to the waiting list for evaluation.

According to Jordan, the cost of the Companion Program is roughly $720 per person, per month, for a total of $8,640 per person annually. This program goes beyond what is funded by the state and federal dollars each county and city Social Services department receives, the director explained, which is why it is a local-only program. Jordan added that the cost of the program, if continued, is expected to rise 3 to 5 percent over the next few years, even if the current number of people served remains the same.

“Like anything else, [the cost of] gas goes up, labor cost goes up,” he said.

But what also is projected to rise is the number of senior citizens in Isle of Wight County.

“Isle of Wight is 25 percent over the age of 60,” Jordan said. “With UVA’s [the University of Virginia’s] projections, we’re looking to have a gray wave.”

While, “there’s no way to get accurate figures for 18-plus with a disability … those that do, we want to be able to help,” Jordan added. “There’s an old saying, ‘You judge a society on how it treats its children and its elderly.’”

While the Board of Supervisors took no formal action to allocate additional funds to the program during its Sept. 19 meeting, the supervisors seemed agreeable to doing so if and when the initial $50,000 is about to run out.

“We began this program, we have an obligation to finish it, at least for this fiscal year,” said Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice.

Board Chairman William McCarty added, “I don’t know what the answer really is, but I do not believe the answer is, ‘Well, we tried it, shut it down.’ We’ve got to figure this thing out.”

In the meantime, Jordan plans to once again reach out to the county’s faith-based community to see what, if any, assistance they can provide.