Advocates for increasing funding for Missoula Aging Services are ramping up their campaign ahead of the election, saying they won’t be able to meet the needs of the city’s growing number of aging adults without additional support.
Missoula County commissioners last month agreed to place the organization’s levy request on the vote-by-mail primary ballot for the June 7 election.
The measure will help Missoula Aging Services keep pace with the growing demand for services, including Meals on Wheels, which has seen a 66% increase in need, according to agency.
“Without this levy, we won’t be able to meet the needs of older people in Missoula County, and there are more and more of them,” said Kristin Page-Nei, vice-chair of the Missoula Aging Services Governing Board.
Advocates told commissioners that the bulk of county funding for Missoula Aging Services has remained flat for 15 years at $350,000 annually. There has been no adjustment for population growth or inflation.
At the same time, the population of aging adults in the county grew 40% between 2010 and 2019, or four times the rate of the region’s overall population growth.
“We have seen the need for our services continue to grow as demand increases, and we’ve also seen the cost of providing those services go up,” Roberta Smith, chair of the organization’s governing board, told county officials.
Among its many programs, the agency looks out for older adults and their loved ones by paying thousands of visits to local nursing homes each year. It serves as a lifeline to older adults looking to find affordable caregiving services.
The organization’s Memory Care Support Services program also assists people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, enabling them to live at home for as long as possible. The program also offers help to family caregivers.
“We also help people navigate their way through Medicaid and other services to find the care they need,” said organization CEO Lisa Sheppard.
Without additional support, backers say the organization could be forced to cut services.
“This is not a trial run for the levy. This is the vote that counts,” said Page-Nei. “We hope that people will vote for the Missoula Aging Services Levy. It will help the older people in our community and their families, and it’s the right thing to do.”