SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich today honored Illinois’ two million seniors as he proclaimed May, 2005, Older Americans Month in Illinois, and highlighted the state’s different programs and initiatives designed to give elderly citizens the care and protection they deserve. The governor’s proclamation coincides with the nationwide celebration of Older Americans Month this May.
"Our senior citizens have worked hard, raised their families, served in the armed forces, and led this country into the 21st century. Now it is our responsibility to give back to them, by making sure they can live comfortably and securely, and getting them the help they need for health care, affordable prescription drugs, independent living, affordable housing and protection from fraud and other forms of abuse," said Gov. Blagojevich.
This year’s theme "Celebrate Long-Term Living" focuses on the fact that a greater number of older Americans are staying active in their communities and living in their own homes longer.
"May is the month that we set aside each year to recognize the contributions made by the generations who came before us. Gov. Blagojevich has recognized those contributions by introducing various prescription drug programs," said Lucia Jones West, Executive Director of the Northeastern Area Agency on Aging. "Many people have to make unfair choices between heat, eat and medicate. But with the help of the Governor, they no longer are forced to make that choice. For that, we are grateful and appreciate that he had the good sense and decency to answer a critical problem."
In response to the soaring cost of prescription drugs, Gov. Blagojevich launched and expanded several programs to help seniors and those with disabilities afford their prescription drugs. Last October, Gov. Blagojevich launched I-SaveRx, making Illinois the first state in the nation to give residents, regardless of age or income, access to safe and affordable prescription drugs from Europe and Canada, offering savings of up to 50 percent on medications for chronic conditions. Since then, the states of Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Vermont have joined the program.
The Governor also created the Illinois Rx Buying Club for seniors who do not qualify for prescription drug assistance programs. This initiative helps members save an average of 24 percent on all of their medications at more than 2,000 Illinois pharmacies. To date, the Club has filled more than 300,000 prescriptions.
The Circuit Breaker Pharmaceutical Assistance program, administered by the Illinois Department on Aging currently helps 51,000 of Illinois’ seniors and disabled persons purchase prescription medicine for one of the following conditions: arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and smoking related illnesses. Eligibility is limited to individuals whose income is less than $21,218 a year. In a two-person household, the income limit is $28,480, and in a three-person or larger household, the income limit is $35,740.
Last year, Gov. Blagojevich also signed into law Senate Bill 1880, which was designed to rebalance to state’s long-term health care system. Under the Older Adult Services Act, all aspects of service, including the provision of housing, health, financial and supportive services for older people was restructured. It also called for the development of a Nursing Home Conversion Program to be established by the state departments of Public Health and Public Aid. The program would reduce reliance on nursing homes by Medicaid, the federal-state program that pays the health-care costs for the poor. Savings from this effort would be reallocated to a broader array of options for home-based or community based services to older adults.
The Illinois Department on Aging also offers the Community Care Program, which provides food preparation, cleaning, and basic care for seniors so they can remain in their home as long as possible. Currently, more than 40,000 seniors and disabled persons participate in the program.
"Older people now have more choices than nursing homes care, which at one time seemed to be the only option. During my 30-year career in this field, I have never met a single senior who expressed the desire to leave home for care in an institution," said Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson.
Last March, Gov. Blagojevich announced the creation of a special, statewide unit within the Illinois State Police to fight financial exploitation and abuses against the elderly. The program offers a variety of services to our state’s seniors, including investigation, advocacy and education.
In April, the Governor also announced $1 million in federal funding for the Illinois Senior Health Insurance Program. The funds will allow SHIP to conduct outreach and training of volunteer senior health advocates across the state. The SHIP program is a very important aid to seniors in helping them figure out the different state and federal health insurance options, and choose the ones that are best for their circumstances, income and needs.
This month, the Department is hosting several events in recognition of Older Americans Month. On May 17, IDoA is hosting the 10th Annual Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield; and on May 18, a "Senior Celebration," which will offer free health screenings for cholesterol and high blood pressure, is scheduled from 9 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. at the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, in the state’s capital.
IDoA officials will continue holding I-SaveRx outreach events across the state.
The Governor’s proclamation reads as follows:
WHEREAS, the State of Illinois is home to more than 1,900,000 citizens aged 60 years or older; and
WHEREAS, the older Americans of the State of Illinois are a vital part of our nation’s demographic makeup; and
WHEREAS, older citizens are members of our community entitled to dignified, independent lives free from fears, myths, and misconceptions about aging; and
WHEREAS, each community in the United States must strive to recognize the contributions of our older citizens, understand and address their evolving needs, and support their caregivers; and
WHEREAS, our society is dependent upon intergenerational cooperation and support, and benefits from our collective efforts to serve older Americans and the people who love and care for them; and
WHEREAS, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Older Americans Act by the United States Congress:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim May 2005 as OLDER AMERICANS MONTH in Illinois, and encourage all citizens to recognize the significant impact older Americans have made on the State of Illinois.