State Senate to Aging Californians: We Care

While the state Assembly has a committee dedicated to aging and long-term care, the State Senate hasn’t had one since it disappeared from the Committee on Health along with termed out sponsor Elaine Alquist at the end of 2012.

That changed last week when the Senate publicly launched a new Select Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care at an informational hearing at the Glendale Central Library attended by 125 people.

The committee is chaired by Sen. Carol Liu (D-District 25), who requested its creation.

The five-member committee will tackle a seemingly endless series of aging problems dogging California, including the fragmented system of long-term care, the caregiver crisis, new worker training, understanding cultural diversity, and addressing critical issues like mental health, dementia, elder justice, housing, and transportation.

California has the largest number of citizens over 65 in the country. By 2030, nearly 1 in 5 Californians are expected to be over 65.

Besides a lengthy policy discussion, Liu made the issue personal.

“As I’m getting greyer I’m getting more concerned about what’s going to happen with me and my husband,” Liu told the audience.

Several audience members chided Liu for including only policymakers – and not citizens – on the panel. Liu countered that the informational session was just the first of many public hearings and those voices would be heard.

After the meeting in an interview, Liu said the problems facing the state were “not sustainable.”

Her top three goals for the committee: 1) streamline the state’s fractured aging services systems; 2) educate the public about the state’s aging services crisis; 3) and develop culturally competent programs to address the state’s widely diverse aging population.

“We don’t run away from problems,” she said. “And the only way to do this is to have an open conversation.”

Liu admitted legislators have had “our tussles with the senior services organizations,” and faced many complaints about state programs like In-Home Supportive Services and the adult day health care program.

“It hurts when there’s no money.”

A consultant to the committee is retired assembly member Patty Berg, who supervised release of the 2006 California report “Building an Aging Agenda for the21st Century.”

A second informational hearing – held jointly with the Assembly’s Aging and Long-Term Care Committee – will be held in room 113 of the Capitol in Sacramento on August 12 at 2:00 p.m.

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