Six state aging resource centers closing due to cuts

Six of the state’s 10 Aging and Disability Resource Centers, including one in Dunbar, are shutting down.

In a statement Monday, officials at the state Bureau of Senior Services, which oversees the centers, said the “2015 Budget made necessary cuts in other services in order to maintain hands on services provided to the seniors.” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told many state agencies to cut their budgets by 7.5 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

According to the statement, the Legislative Auditor’s Office found the resource centers “were not the most cost effective or efficient way to provide those referral services.” It says the bureau will cut back to the three most active walk-in resource centers — in Petersburg, Fairmont and Princeton — plus the lead center in Charleston Town Center mall, while “transitioning to a web based data system to assist the seniors and the disability community in the state.”

Earlier reports said the Charleston center would also be closed, but the Bureau of Senior Services said that was not correct.

Resource centers in Dunbar, Parkersburg, Wheeling, Lewisburg, Elkins and Martinsburg will close. There was also a Milton location, but Brenda Landers, director of the West Virginia State University Metro Area Agency on Aging, which included the Milton and Dunbar locations, said the Milton location closed in February. She said it moved its operations to Dunbar, after Bureau of Senior Services Commissioner Robert Roswall indicated she shouldn’t renew the lease on the Milton location’s building. Landers said the Dunbar location will close June 30.

Landers said annual funding had fallen by about $80,000 since 2007, when the Legislature provided funding to the Bureau of Senior Services to establish new resource centers throughout the state, according to the resource centers’ website.

The Milton and Dunbar centers employed three full-time counselors, Landers said. They’re moving to new positions in the Bureau and the Area Agency on Aging, she said.

She said the centers helped elderly and disabled people find low-cost meals, transportation and medication.

“We don’t just hand them a number and say ‘Here’s a number for you,’ ” she said. “We go that extra mile to make sure they get what they need.”

Sally Blackburn, coordinator for the Dunbar and Milton centers, said the Dunbar location had about 3,450 total contacts in 2013 and the Milton location had 1,180. Those numbers include the first time someone made a phone call or walked into the resource center plus any follow-ups, including returned phone calls.

“Closing the ADRCs was based upon productivity,” Roswall told the (Martinsburg) Journal. “Less than 25 percent of the clients are walk-ins. Less than 13,000 clients come into the centers. Most of the business is done over the phone.” He could not be reached by the Gazette on Monday.

Landers recalled a time children living out-of-state used a resource center to finally reach their father in St. Albans. The resource center found him and helped him with his needs. When he later went to the hospital, the hospital used the organization to get in touch with the family.

“There’s a connection there with family members living out of state,” Landers said. “And they can call and say, ‘I’m living in California but my mom is living there, can you tell me what services are available for my mom?’ ”

Landers said the Dunbar resource center will send all referrals to the bureau. The Charleston center can be reached at 877-987-3646 or 304-558-3317, and the statewide line is 866-987-2372.

Reach Ryan Quinn at 304-348-1254.

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