DOBSON — A Surry County department head says the “best kept secret in the county” is in her department.
Samantha Ange, director of the Health and Nutrition Center, said many senior citizens don’t know that a program exists that could help them save money and cope with some of the challenges the “golden years” present.
Mary Jane Jenkins is a certified Senior Health Insurance Information Officer (SHIIP) counselor and runs a multi-faceted program for seniors. Her office is located at the county’s Human Services building in Mount Airy, and she said she’s always willing and ready to help seniors.
Jenkins said her program offers services for seniors including community resources guidance, chore respite services, a family caregiver support program, “options counseling” and a medication assistance program. Jenkins said, with the exception of some local grant matches, her program is funded solely by state and federal dollars.
The program can help seniors in planning for their futures, making homes more handicapped-accessible and can even give the caretakers of elderly or disabled folks a much needed break.
According to Jenkins individuals 60 or older and those who are disabled can utilize the services her program offers. Though there are many services offered, Jenkins said the medication assistance program has been a highlight in her department.
Jenkins said that program primarily aids those who don’t have health insurance in finding appropriate prescription drug coverage. However, some Medicare patients also fall into something she refers to as “the doughnut hole” and need assistance.
Once those on Medicare spend about $3,000 on prescription drugs Medicare will no longer cover medications. The system does allow for catastrophic coverage eventually. However, Medicare patients experience a time in which they may not have prescription drug coverage.
With some seniors prescribed drugs that may cost tens of thousands of dollars a month, the “doughnut hole” can be expensive.
Jenkins said the medication assistance program has helped seniors save more than $650,000 since annual enrollment for Medicare began on Oct. 15. She and her staff help folks find a drug coverage plan that meets their needs for the lowest cost possible.
Tammy Haynes, who runs the medication assistance portion of services, said the program has helped Surry County seniors save more than $33 million since the program’s 2007 inception.
Ange doesn’t want the work of Jenkins, Haynes and others to go unnoticed. Moreover, she said she wants Surry County seniors to know about and utilize the services the county offers.
“We want seniors to know they have a friend and a resource here,” exclaimed Jenkins.
Jenkins said her department works closely with the Social Security Administration office, local hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare providers to reach out to seniors. However, she said word doesn’t travel easily.
“We have an especially hard time reaching those seniors who live in rural areas,” explained Jenkins.
Jenkins said in a day and age of telemarketers and scams seniors are concerned whenever somebody attempts to reach out to them.
“Seniors are often leery when people call,” said Jenkins. “We are here for the good of senior citizens and want to reach out to as many as possible.”
Jenkins said she’s always trying to reach out to seniors, but a special event is planned for Friday. According to Jenkins the Haunted Health Fair will be an event no area senior should miss.
The event, which will be at the Mayberry Mall, begins at 9 a.m. and will last until 2 p.m. The health fair will feature information on all the services Surry County Senior Services offers as well as blood pressure readings, blood sugar tests and stress and depression screenings.
A number of local healthcare providers such as hospice providers and assisted living facilities will also have information at the fair.
Jenkins said the free event should be informative and fun for seniors who choose to attend.
Manning the posts
Jenkins said that as seniors begin learning of what her program has to offer her staff will be put to the test. With a calendar that’s already filling up, Jenkins said some seniors may need to be sent to the state SHIIP office for counseling services.
According to Jenkins more SHIIP counselors in her office may be needed, and she’s calling on the community for help. Jenkins said she is looking for folks interested in being SHIIP volunteer counselors.
All training is provided free of charge, according to Jenkins.
Those interested in becoming a SHIIP volunteer, receiving counseling or other services or seeking more information regarding the Haunted Health Fair can call 786-7435 for more information.
Andy is a staff writer for The News and can be reached at (336) 415-4698.