While the Legislature debates reform bills for government reorganization — in some instances for the third or fourth year — reforms are actually under way in one small, but important agency. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is moving to streamline the operations of the Office on Aging as his former colleagues in the Legislature talk, temporize, equivocate and only occasionally act.
Of course, Lt. Gov. McConnell has been better known over the years as Sen. McConnell. He held the powerful position of Senate president pro tempore when the resignation of the previous lieutenant governor thrust him into that office under the constitutional rules of succession.
It wasn’t his choice, but Mr. McConnell has made the most of it.
As head of the Office on Aging, he has traveled the state, visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities where the elderly live when they have to leave their own homes. He has held public hearings. And now he’s working on a plan to make a difference.
His work is being supported by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and by Health and Human Services, as he looks at areas where regulatory reform and systemic improvements can be accomplished. University researchers also are involved.
His plans are largely aimed at keeping as many of the elderly in their own homes as possible. It’s more cost effective, and it’s what they want.
Indeed, Mr. McConnell says an elder care facility costs 40 times more than home health care for an individual. Unfortunately, rules and regulations governing federal funding to the state don’t allow the leeway to make at-home care more available.
Moreover, the federal sequester has sharply cut funding for his office. Lt. Gov. McConnell is seeking extra money from the Legislature to make up the $1.5 million shortfall.
Meanwhile, his staff is examining the performance of those who contract with the Office on Aging for elderly services across the state. The goal is to determine where funding is being used to best effect, and where changes should be made.
As a legislator, Mr. McConnell was a deficit hawk, and he still is committed to spending the state’s limited resources in the best possible manner. And increasing at-home care would be far more cost-effective than putting residents into nursing homes.
It can be as simple as adult day care, or “a meal a day, a trip to the doctor, getting their homes cleaned,” he says.
Lt. Gov. McConnell clearly has been moved by his experience in the year since he took up his responsibilities for the Office on Aging.
He tell us he plans to stay the course on a strategic plan to assist the state’s elderly, and is prepared to seek election as lieutenant governor to do so.
In traveling the state, Mr. McConnell has listened to elderly residents: “They all say ‘we need to stay home.’ ”
His plan is to make that happen. Though a simple goal, it could affect hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians who want to hold on to their own lives and their dignity.