Funding crunch for valuable service

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

A program in the Smoky River Region designed to help keep seniors in their homes is experiencing financial burdens that threatens its existence.

Smoky River Family and Community Support Services director of community services Crystal Tremblay says the home support program is facing the same challenges that every homeowner faces. With inflation to nearly every commodity, the program is more expensive to facilitate, and it requires some assistance to be kept in the FCSS programming.

“We provide light house cleaning, companionship, and meal preparation,” says Tremblay, of some of the services provided to individuals.

“We have home support workers who hold part-time positions to help provide services to those who need it.”

Currently, 16 people utilize the home support program, but there are also six other people on the waiting list who would use the service if the budget would allow.

“It is now costing the program a lot of money to get out to some of the locations in the region,” says Tremblay.

“We can’t add more people at this point because we don’t have the money,” she adds.

Tremblay explains the cost to use the program is quite low to help people in tough situations be able to afford the assistance, but as a result FCSS has to absorb a lot of the cost. Charge to use the program is based on the client’s disposable income.

“The actual cost of this program and the financial budget for the program has resulted in the need to restructure how we fund home support,” says board member Sandra Primeau.

“There will be close monitoring of our new fees for service and our expenses. Our board members see the importance of this community service and will continue to examine and discuss any options to facilitate its ongoing roll in the regions Smoky River FCSS serves,” adds Primeau.

FCSS is applying for various grants to help keep the program afloat, including the New Horizon Senior Grant and Aging Alberta through Healthy Aging Alberta.

Keeping seniors in their homes as long as possible has been documented as not only better for the individual, but also reduces the burden on both taxpayers and the health care system.

Funding to FCSS branches across the province is on a per capita basis. Tremblay says there was some increase in funding, and this has all gone to the home support program. As of the end of September, the home support program was already $6,000 over budget.

“We have a reserve fund that we have been dipping into, but that is not sustainable,” Tremblay explains.

“We have written to the Minister of Community Services and to our Member of Legislative Assembly in hopes they will help FCSS branches find a solution to the shortfall.”

Tremblay says community members can donate to the program, if they wish, by contacting the FCSS office at (780) 837-2220. She says when donating to any FCSS program, individuals can specify if they want their money to be allocated to a specific program.

Tremblay provided a quote from the FCSSAA advocacy tool kit: “Avoiding crisis isn’t very newsworthy, but did you know that research has shown for every $1 invested in preventive services, $7 to $12 in future spending is saved?”

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