The Lt. Governor in South Carolina has a major role besides presiding over hours of Senate debate; he is also the head of the State Office on Aging. Former Senator Glenn McConnell took over the job in March and says he is still learning how large the population is that he must serve.
Now that the Senate is adjourned, he is taking a statewide tour this fall to hear from those constituents.
McConnell assumed the role when Lt. Gov. Ken Ard had to step down because he pled guilty to ethics violations. That left the powerful Senate President Pro Tem from Charleston little time to prepare
When he took office, McConnell had an audit done learned that the Office on Aging was paying some bills for the Lt. Gov’s office, instead of vice-versa.
“The result would cause, in my opinion, less money to be spent on seniors and instead on constitutional duties that should have been paid for out of the general fund. So the first thing we did was square up with that, ” says McConnell. “We wanted to take everybody who was or should be paid for out of the general fund and put them back in the budget.”
The next step was looking at who needed help: “We looked at the waiting list, I made a request for $5 million because we have over 5,000 people on the waiting list, seniors needing services. We could have closed the gap with the $5 million by about 5,000 people and dropped it down to about 3,000 on the waiting list.”
But the General Assembly gave the office $2 million to serve seniors who need a range of services from help with transportation to information about nursing homes. The Office on Aging tries to help citizens before they need Medicaid services.
Starting Sept. 4, Lt. Governor McConnell will visit 10 regions of the state holding public forums on issues that affect aging South Carolinians. These regions have resource centers from the Office on Aging. (Schedule below)
“Here’s an opportunity for us to go out here and look at what these resource centers are doing. How are they coordinating with the private sector or the public sector? What type of job is being done for those seniors that are home-based and community-based? Where are the gaps, and how can we break the spiraling cost and at the same time increase the opportunities for our aging population?
McConnell says he’ll be looking at things like caregiver respite care, Alzheimer’s units, and transportation.
“Preventive healthcare by going to the doctor prevents them from going to the emergency room and keeps them out of nursing beds,” says McConnell.
As senator, McConnell often held fact-finding committee hearings around the state.
“This is a very complex issue and a very challenging issue, and it is a gigantic issue, because we have in migration in this state. All of the statistics indicate this tremendous growth and we’re in an era where money is scarce, where Medicaid is challenged, to provide for those who are at the bottom of the ladder, resource wise,” explains McConnell.
“And,” he adds, “I’m new to this and I need to learn.”
Faces of Aging schedule:
September 4-5, 2012: Region III – Catawba (Counties include Chester, Lancaster, York, and Union)
September 18-19, 2012: Region V – Lower Savannah ( Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, and Orangeburg)
September 24-25, 2012: Region IX – Trident (Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester)
October 2-3, 2012: Region I – Appalachia (Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg)
October 16-17, 2012: Region II – Upper Savannah (Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, and Saluda)
November 7, 2012: Region IV – Central Midlands(Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, and Richland)
November 13-14, 2012: Region VI – Santee Lynches (Clarendon, Kershaw, Lee, and Sumter)
November 27-28, 2012: Region VIII – Waccamaw (Georgetown, Horry, and Williamsburg)
December 5-6, 2012: Region VII – Pee Dee (Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion, and Marlboro)
December 11-12, 2012: Region X – Lowcountry (Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper)