Older Missoula County residents and their families owe a big “thank you” to our County Commissioners.
On March 10, the Commission voted unanimously to place a levy on the June 7 Primary Election ballot. The levy will boost support to vital Missoula Aging Services (MAS) programs, such as Meals on Wheels, which are under stress as our population grows older.
The Missoula County Commission established MAS in 1982 with the mission to “promote the independence, dignity and health of older adults, and those who care for them.” MAS has proudly served this cause for nearly 40 years with community support, providing a voice for older county residents and empowering people to age with confidence and without fear. This mission has become increasingly more challenging in recent years.
From 2010 to 2019, the population of older adults in Missoula County has grown 40%, four times that of the overall population. During this same time, the population of those age 75 and older, who are more likely to need assistance, has grown by 22%. Yet, the current county funding to MAS has remained at a flat $350,000 per year for the past 15 years, with no adjustment for inflation or population growth.
Replacing this flat funding with a permanent 4-mill levy will better allow MAS to keep pace with the needs of our aging population. This modest increase amounts to $3.69 per year for each $100,000 of a county homeowner’s taxable home value.
The levy will help MAS sustain needed programming that has outgrown the available funding. These programs include Meals On Wheels, the need for which has grown by two-thirds in the past two years. In 2021, more than 136,000 meals were delivered to home-bound people living independently through Meals on Wheels.
MAS’s Memory Care Support Services program assists people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to continue to live at home for as long as possible, including providing help to family caregivers.
Additionally, MAS looks out for older adults and their loved ones by paying 1,200 visits each year to residents in local nursing homes. MAS prevents the exploitation and abuse of older adults, including helping them to manage their money and avoid scams.
MAS also helps people to navigate the complexity of Medicare and Medicaid. Each year, MAS provides unbiased assistance to people selecting or changing their Medicare coverage. In 2021, MAS helped older adults save an estimated $750,000 on Medicare Savings Plans and prescription drug coverage, as well as homeowner and renter tax credits.
Finally, we know that when people are supported to age in their own homes, they enjoy better health and have a higher quality of life. MAS offers more than 20 programs to older people and their loved ones to help make this possible. This benefits all Missoula County taxpayers in the long run by reducing the need for expensive institutional care.
The levy will help MAS continue to provide these critical services for our growing community.
We are grateful to the Commissioners for putting this important measure before Missoula County voters. Let’s do right by approving the levy when we cast our votes in the June Primary Election. It’s a good investment in our friends, neighbors and loved ones.
Caryn Bohenek; Chris Flohr; Gayle Hudgins; Debbie L. Lawton, CPA; Sue Malek; Jolynn McDermott; James McKay, MD; Kimberly McKelvey; Kristin Page-Nei; Cynthia Rademacher; Roberta J. Smith; Juanita Vero; and Tom Wozniak serve on the Missoula Aging Services Governing Board.