Senior Transport Vans Idled For Lack of Funds, Gotbaum Charges
Transportation vans at some senior centers are sitting idle and not serving members because of a lack of operating funds resulting from Bloomberg mayoral administration budget cuts over the past several years, according to Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.
“Vans across the city are stalled and the Bloomberg administration is doing nothing about it,” Gotbaum charged.
“These vans are often a lifeline for seniors. Every single van should be on the road, helping seniors get to the doctor and other appointments. There’s no excuse. DFTA [City Department for the Aging] should be funding senior centers so they can keep the vans on the road.”
Gotbaum has appealed to the Bloomberg administration to put funding for senior transportation services in the 2006 budget now being formulated according to a spokesperson.
The Gazette has also learned that senior center representatives made an appeal to Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing) last Thursday for the same purpose.
One center official who attended, Marian Lewek associate director of SNAP (Services Now for Seniors) in Eastern Queens, said the meeting was intended to discuss this very issue with Liu, council Transportation Committee chairman, and Marshall.
Lewek said SNAP has four vans to take members to doctor visits and for other purposes, and two to deliver Meals-on-Wheels. Generally those meals delivering vans are operating, but on most days not all of the others are operating. Lewek confirmed Gotbaum’s charges that money has not been budgeted for operating the vans.
Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services, speaking on this issue, stated: “After five years of no funding for fuel and van insurance to keep pace with inflation, senior centers are finding it very difficult to keep all the vans on the road. The city needs to invest new funds into these vans in order for seniors to access services that are critical to them.”
MALONEY FIGHTS TO LOWER DRUG COSTS: Charging that the Medicare drug prescription bill sponsored by the Bush Administration does nothing to bring down the cost of drugs, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney is supporting legislation that would give Medicare the power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for seniors.
The Medicare drug prescription bill, which will take effect next January, specifically prohibits negotiations by the U.S. government to get a lower price for drugs purchased. Last year, drug discount cards were issued to low-income seniors in advance of the law taking effect.
Maloney said: “Seniors in New York continue to pay needlessly high drug prices because the Medicare drug law that the Republican-controlled Congress passed in 2003 did nothing to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. In fact, at the bidding of the big drug companies, the law actually prohibited Medicare from negotiating for lower prices.”
Currently, she said, Medicare is the only entity in this country that cannot bargain for lower drug prices based on purchasing huge amounts of drugs.
PICNIC HONORS VOLS: The annual picnic honoring volunteer workers at the Middle Village Adult Center is set for June 2 at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island. The sponsor’s monthly bulletin says more than 60 volunteers will be honored at the usually well-attended event.
HEALTH FAIR: Today is National Senior Health and Fitness Day, so the Selfhelp Austin Street Senior Center, in conjunction with North Shore–LIJ Forest Hills Hospital will—appropriately—celebrate the day with their first annual Senior Health Fair.
The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Selfhelp center at 106-06 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills (entrance on 69th Road). The health fair will include free screenings such as blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and podiatry in the morning and hearing tests and nutrition advice in the afternoon. For information, call 718-520-8197 or 718-830-1511.
NOMINATED: Governor George Pataki has nominated Neal E. Lane, acting director of the state Office For the Aging, to become the director of the agency. Lane has been acting director since 2003; previous to that, he served as executive deputy director.
The governor said Lane is well respected for his knowledge of aging issues and has been recognized nationally for his efforts in this field. His nomination is subject to confirmation by the state senate. Prior to joining the state Office For the Aging, Lane held various positions with county offices for the aging since 1974.