Trump’s proposed budget cuts won’t impact local Meals on Wheels for the time being

Published 7:27 pm Saturday, March 18, 2017

Officials at the Community Council of Warren County, which is the agency that operates five federally funded programs here, don’t anticipate problems from federal budget cuts for at least two years.

Alene Thornton, chief executive officer and president of the agency, said she has contracts for the programs that the agency offers, including delivery of five frozen meals weekly to about 125 Warren County residents who can’t prepare meals for themselves, for the next two years.

“Everything is subject to change with the federal government. However, our services are in a contract and I’ve been here 43 years. I started the program. I have never had them come in and break a contract. The federal government has already sent that money to the state,” Thornton said. “When it’s contract time, they tell me, ‘This is all you can bid for.’ Anyone can bid for these programs, but so far, ours have been the best-written proposals. I don’t foresee any problems because this is not the year they tell me how much money I have.”

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Unlike some communities, Vicksburg and Warren County do not have the traditional Meals on Wheels program, in which a hot meal is delivered Monday through Friday to seniors and those with disabilities who can’t prepare meals for themselves.

However, the Community Council of Warren County does coordinate a hot meal delivery program through a group of churches in Warren County.

About 20 churches prepare and deliver hot meals to 30 to 40 residents about 100 or so times a year.

“Some only do it once a year,” said Bill Thornton, Alene Thornton’s husband, who is a system analyst for the agency. “Others — like Crawford Street and First Presbyterian — do it more often than that, like a couple of times a month.”

The churches buy the food, cook and deliver the meals at their own expense, Bill Thornton said.

“Our cuts came two years ago, just as we were preparing the three-year programs,” Alene Thornton said.

The Community Council of Warren County operates five programs that depend on funds that originate with the federal government.

In addition to the home-delivered frozen meals program, the agency operates a program called Homemakers.

“Homemakers do light housekeeping — sweeping, dusting and changing beds. The homemakers are certified nursing assistants, so they can give the residents baths and things like that,” Alene Thornton said.

The Homemakers program serves about 60 Warren County residents, and currently has a short waiting list.

Another program provides transportation for those who qualify and need it.

“All of our programs are free, but to add to the person’s dignity, we always tell them they have the opportunity to donate toward their care. The suggested donation is 50 cents per box of five meals or $1 for transportation,” Alene Thornton said.

The transportation program can get clients to the doctor, pharmacy or grocery store, but does not provide transportation to locations not considered a necessity.

“We transported 324 different individuals in the month of February,” she said.

The fourth is its Ombudsman program, Alene Thornton said.

“We go into the nursing homes and see every patient in every nursing home in Warren County every month. We are looking for any abuse or neglect. We go to every nursing home every month. That is a federal requirement,” she said.

“If we find any, we report that to the Mississippi Health Care Commission and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. They then come in and do their own assessment and sometimes it winds up in the court system. Right now, we have none in the court system.”

Its fifth program is case management outreach.

“Every service we have begins with a case management visit, and they fill out a consumer information form, which is like an application, to see if they qualify.” Alene Thornton said. “There are very stringent rules and those forms are sent to the state and the state approves or disapproves them.

“The case manager follows up with the patient every 90 days to see if the patient is getting what they need, and if not, we connect them with services outside what we can provide,” she said.

The Community Council of Warren County also depends on other funding to operate, like those allocated from the United Way of West Central Mississippi.