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Seniors hope help arrives
Nicoletti: It's time to reinvent services
At least once every month Celia Arteaga needs to go to the doctor for a checkup on her weak heart.
The Wheatland resident, though, doesn't drive. Instead, she calls on Ben Hart, a driver of the "medi-car" which transports seniors to and from doctor visits at little or no cost.
It's a service Arteaga said she needs.
"I don't know what I'll do without it," she said. "I sure hope they find someone to take it over. A lot of us seniors need it."
The medical transportation service is in jeopardy because the current provider, QuEST, will continue to transport seniors only until Sept. 5. After that, there is no company lined up to take over the van service or to provide meals to 350 seniors in Yuba and Sutter counties.
Arteaga said she has joint pain from a car accident in 1957. She's also been on dialysis for kidney problems and had one heart attack. She said she cannot rely on family members who work during the day to drive her.
"When I was driving I was always giving rides to people," she said outside her doctor's office in Yuba City on Wednesday. "Little did I know someday I'd need the help."
Yuba County Supervisor John Nicoletti said without another provider lined up, this is an opportunity to change the program.
"We need a reinvention of senior services in the area," he said. "We need to reprioritize the folks that are truly in need."
Nicoletti said additional support from counties is not out of the question, but it is not ideal.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "But we need to work through these issues as a community."
Tuesday night Yuba and Sutter counties and Yuba City approved a loan in the amount of $39,000 to continue services until Sept. 5.
But come that date, officials are back to square one.
Attempts to find a replacement have been made. When officials in Yuba and Sutter counties were notified that QuEST, Quality Education Services Training, would discontinue the service, a task force of local officials and nonprofit agencies was formed to monitor progress and discuss ideas for the future of the program.
QuEST officials listed the rise in gas prices and financial problems as reasons to discontinue the service.
A portion of meals are refunded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at $4.35 per meal according to representatives from the Area 4 Agency on Aging. Area 4 is the state organization that oversees meal contracts in nine Sacramento area counties.
It costs QuEST an average of $7.35 to make each meal.
To find a replacement, Area 4 opened a request for proposals to have a new provider in place by Aug. 25. When the deadline came, though, only one company submitted an application for home delivered meals. The company, Mom's Meals, is from Iowa.
Kary Aldridge, executive director of the Yuba-Sutter United Way and member of the created task force, said she was surprised to hear only one company had submitted an application.
"I thought there would be at least two," she said.
Aldridge said the United Way is positioned to help any new provider obtain funding to cover costs of operation. She said about $140,000 in grant money is available to Yuba and Sutter counties through FEMA.
"It can be used for meals, shelter or electrical assistance," she said. "It's quite a chunk of funding."
Nicoletti said the counties are speaking with local organizations to find a solution, but declined to specify. He said attempts will be made to revisit local potential providers.
Aldridge said a "plan B" of restaurant owners providing meals to homebound seniors temporarily until a permanent provider is in place is still an option.
Aldridge said the Salvation Army was interested in the program, but the three week time frame to turn in applications was too fast for the organization.
Salvation Army representatives did not return phone calls Wednesday.
As officials work to find a solutions, seniors are looking for other ways to stay fed.
"I guess I'll just have to learn to cook," Leo Bowers, 71, of Brownsville, said Wednesday while eating lunch at the Ponderosa Community Center in Brownsville.
Others said the meals at the senior centers in Brownsville, Yuba City, Marysville and Wheatland provide much needed time to socialize.
"When you live alone it's nice to leave and have something to do," said Susan Brooks, 88, of Brownsville.
Arteaga said she receives on hot meal each day delivered to her home, but she's more concerned about getting to the doctor when she needs to.
"I guess I'll start walking the night before and camp," she said with a laugh.
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Andrea Koskey at 749-4709 or email@example.com