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3 pacts near on care for frail elderly

The Cattaraugus County Legislature is expected next week to nail down three contracts with Total Senior Care, operator of a new nonprofit program based in Olean that is designed to help the frail elderly maintain their independence as long as possible.

In a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting Wednesday, lawmakers questioned Carol Mahoney, director of Total Senior Care, who will operate the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), set to debut next month in a newly constructed facility on North Union Street. Nine employees are already working at the site and some services will be contracted to Olean General Hospital and interdisciplinary therapeutic providers.

The PACE program budget is projected at $2.8 million in capital funding, including a federal grant of $535,000, $500,000 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, private and corporate donations and the County Legislature's promised contribution of $25,000 for program development. Mahoney said the program is projected to create 52 jobs and more than 100 contract positions and will provide a range of in-home, outpatient and nursing home services for more than 200 frail seniors -- many living alone in rural areas.

In June that contribution was authorized in legislation passed by the Legislature and structured as a forgivable loan that was to be taken out of the economic development project pot of 2006 Seneca Casino revenues. But problems arose in September, when Mahoney asked for a revision of the funding structure to classify the county's contribution as a grant.

Lawmakers also quizzed Mahoney about PACE stability and possibilities for growth. She assured them that a formal dissolution plan as well as a growth formula are prescribed by the state and federal governments.

In response to a question from Mark Ward, D-Great Valley, she said PACE will not create additional demand to strain the county's contracted services, but will provide a choice, as demands rise due to an aging population.

PACE Board Chairman Dr. Pierre Dionne told lawmakers he is excited about the program because he sees patients becoming sicker at home, lacking the care they need, especially when family members aren't helping.

When asked by James J. Snyder, R-Olean, if demand is sufficient, Dionne said he believes figures backing the proposals are conservative.

The lawmakers agreed to vote on the resolutions at Wednesday's session.

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