Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Scott McBeth, DirectorMountainland Aging and Family Services Department

As Mountainland Association of Governments Director of Aging and Family Services Department, I am pleased to inform the citizens of Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties that providing services for our senior population will remain the responsibility of Mountainland Association of Governments.

In a letter dated March 16, 2006 to Utah County officials, the federal government upheld the previous decision of the Director of Aging and Adult Services of the state of Utah which denied Utah County’s application to become a new planning and service area and the designated Area Agency on Aging for Utah County.

These events began when Utah County officially withdrew their membership from Mountainland Association of Governments in February 2005 and on April 19, 2005 petitioned the state of Utah to become a planning and service area for Utah County and become the primary service provider.

In June 2005, the state rejected Utah County’s petition; however, Utah County was allowed 30 days to provide additional information to meet the necessary criteria to proceed.

In July 2005, Utah County appealed the state’s decision not to accept their petition and provided additional information and the state consented to open the process and seek public input.

Public hearings were held and conducted by the state on Oct. 6, 2005 in Summit County, Oct. 13 in Utah County and Oct. 17 in Wasatch County.

Testimony and evidence provided during the review process and at these hearings by seniors, professionals from the community, elected officials from local units of government, senior center representatives, and citizens at large, overwhelmingly supported Mountainland Association of Governments remaining as the Area Agency on Aging. Only two Utah County Commissioners out of 48 elected mayors, county commissioners, or county council members in our three-county service area supported Utah County’s petition.

The state made a decision in December 2005 stating, "The Division has very carefully considered Utah County’s application and the public record, and finds that it has not received clear and convincing evidence that a change in designation of a PSA and AAA in Utah County is necessary for, and will enhance, the effective administrating of aging services and programs. Utah County’s application, therefore, is denied."

This decision was formally appealed by Utah County in January 2006 to the United States Administration on Aging who rendered a decision to deny Utah County’s petition and uphold the state’s previous decision.

It has been a long, time-consuming and arduous process; however, there has been a benefit in raising the awareness of the increasing senior population in our communities and the needs and challenges we are facing to help seniors age with dignity and remain independent.

During this process it became distinctly clear that local units of government, the private sector and community organizations need to work together, adding their resources to augment the services provided through Mountainland Association of Governments for seniors in our communities.

The state complimented Utah County Commissioners for their desire to improve services to seniors in Utah County and encouraged the following:

"The Division finds that Utah County’s seniors can be best served by Utah County adding resources within its own borders by either contracting with MAG, directly with service providers, or within its own robust infrastructure."

I am hopeful that from this point forward, elected officials and those serving the public can work together to improve and enhance senior services. Resources are limited and it is only by working together that we can meet the increasing needs that we are facing.

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