The Lehigh County Area Agency on Aging began as the County Office of Aging in January, 1973 with a budget of $35,000 and a staff of three persons. It had an advisory board of a dozen persons, all leaders in the community with special interest or expertise in serving the needs of the elderly.
The office today is known as the Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services. It is the designated Area Agency on Aging for Lehigh County. The office merged in December, 1996 with another County office (Office of Adult and Residential Services) serving younger adults 18 to 59 years of age who were primarily in need of services for the physically disabled, individuals who were homeless or near homeless and other targeted at risk younger adult populations.
The office is directed by Donna M. Zimmerman, Executive Director, with an Advisory Council chaired by Rosemary Fliszar consisting of 15 members. As a full board, it currently meets six times a year. Special committee assignments of advisory council members interact with agency staff on a monthly basis. The purpose of the advisory council is to advocate for the continuing needs of the aging and adult (18-59 yrs.) population of Lehigh County, assess and evaluate unmet needs, assist in formulating program policy and services to citizens 18 years of age and older, and monitor existing services to ensure that they successfully meet the needs of the aging and adult population of Lehigh County.
In pursing this purpose, the advisory council strives to ensure that recipients of services, the general public and other concerned parties, have a significant voice in determining the content and operational methods set forth in the formation of the Annual County Services Plan and the Department of Aging Four-Year Plan. The advisory council helps promote better public understanding of the programs and objectives of the agency and shares with the Executive Director problems relating to program goals and objectives and working toward problem resolution. They also help formulate policies for the advancement and improvement of agency operations and cooperate with other agencies in the community and with appropriate state agencies in coordinating county program efforts with related programs.
To meet the needs of the County's aging and targeted adult populations, the Office of Aging and Adult Services employs 68 full-time employees and 13 part-time employees.
During 1998, the office was reorganized to more effectively deliver and administer services.
The Office of Aging and Adult Services recruits providers through a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The Director and management/fiscal staff review and select providers based on established standards and federal, state and local requirements. Provider services are monitored and meetings are held periodically as needs arise, particularly with providers in the delivery of in-home services such as homemaker, personal care and attendant care. Waiver programs in both the Aging and Adult components of the organization also establish criteria for ongoing communication and coordination with community service providers.
Efforts at coordinating community service providers flow in many directions based upon each individual units funding source requirements and monitoring protocols. Unit supervisors establish meetings to review contract performance, individual consumer progress, problem resolution and communication enhancement. Every two weeks the Executive Director convenes the management team, comprised of all program and fiscal supervisors, to review ongoing efforts to meet stated goals and objectives, to ensure efficiency in delivery of services and to discuss and develop new program initiatives.