Senior citizens say they will fight to keep services - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Senior citizens say they will fight to keep services

Updated:
Senior citizens attend meeting at the Yenni Building. Senior citizens attend meeting at the Yenni Building.

Elmwood, La. — Dozens of senior citizens from the metro area gathered for a meeting Friday to plan their battle against Governor Bobby Jindal's proposed budget.  They, along with their advocates, said the proposed budget will devastate senior services statewide.

"We have a young governor... We need to call and remind them that one day they will be old and we need their support," said Al Robichaux, executive director of the Jefferson Parish Council on Aging.

Seniors from Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and St. Tammany Parishes attended the meeting.

"Oh yes, very concerned. We don't want our senior centers to close," said Shirley Vicknair, a West Bank senior citizen.

Council on Aging representatives said the governor's budget cuts $1 million in supplemental senior center funding. They said in Jefferson Parish that would result in five or six centers closing and in New Orleans seven centers would be shuttered if those funds are not put back in the budget.

"We're asking the governor that he…would continue that. This money is there to support all of the centers," said Georgiana Brunet of New Orleans.

"Yeah, we don't want it to close," said Shirley Sigur.

Also the Senior Rx program that helps seniors and disabled adults get prescription medications for free or at reduced costs would be eliminated, according to the Council on Aging representatives.

"Last year they gave us a million dollars for the program and we got $12 million in prescription medications for our citizens.  That's a great investment...This is keeping people healthy," said Robichaux.

"Clearly, it's a statement of the governor's priorities," said State Representative Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans.

He said lawmakers will try to head off the cuts affecting seniors. "And us as legislators have a right to amend that budget and we're going to look at ways to cut elsewhere, maybe look at his budget even, because I think it's a moral obligation to support our elderly population," said Brossett.

In unveiling his budget, Jindal called it fair.  "We think this is a good budget, a responsible budget, a balanced budget," Jindal said in recent weeks.

"This is a political football every year.  Well, let's hold this over the legislator's head that we're going to take away the senior center money, so therefore they can vote along with whatever bill he wants to get passed," said Howard Rodgers, executive director of the New Orleans Council on Aging.

"It wouldn't be going on if there was an election right now," said Lucille Vincent as she stood with other senior citizens.

While the governor cannot run again, some state lawmakers can, and seniors said they will be held accountable for the way they vote on the budget.

"Be careful what you do, if you want your job," said Vincent.

The Jindal administration sent a statement to FOX 8 News. In an email, Assistant Commissioner of Administration for Policy and Communications Michael DiResto wrote:

Formula funding for councils on aging and senior centers was unchanged and maintained at $7.7 million in the proposed budget. At the start of the Executive Budget development process, however, we always non-recur one-time supplemental funding provided during the previous legislative session.

On Senior Rx – this program does not provide direct care services but provides other program and enrollment information. These services are also currently provided through DHH's Patient Assistance Program, in behavioral health clinics, federally qualified health centers, and local non-profit organizations across the state like the Rapides Foundation's Cenla Medication Access Program. The Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs is developing a resource guide for all pharmacy assistance programs statewide.

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