Bartow's Budget: Senior center, social services providing programs on limited funds
by Amanda Ryker
Mar 09, 2012 | 2339 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AARP volunteer tax consultant Diana Shropshire, left, helps Louise Casstevens prepare her taxes at the Bartow County Senior Center on Zena Drive in Cartersville. Bartow’s two senior centers offer  activities and services for the county’s senior population. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
AARP volunteer tax consultant Diana Shropshire, left, helps Louise Casstevens prepare her taxes at the Bartow County Senior Center on Zena Drive in Cartersville. Bartow’s two senior centers offer activities and services for the county’s senior population. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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* Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series that will look at Bartow County's budget by department.

Bartow's senior and indigent residents can receive a multitude of services through two county departments that strive to provide helpful programs that meet the needs of the majority.

Together, the senior and indigent services departments operate on a combined budget of just under $1 million. While the figures may not be as high as some citizens have expressed a need for, the department directors strategically work to offer the best services with the funds provided.

"I know some people are upset that animal control gets more than we do," Vonna Artemis, indigent social services director, said. "But animals carry diseases and we can't have them running around."

The budget for indigent services is down $4,800 from 2011.

Artemis and Marie Van Linden, assistant director for social services, meet with indigent residents to help them find ways to make ends meet while receiving the medical care or other needs they require.

"Our biggest thing right now is indigent burials," Artemis said. "Last year we had around 65 and this year I think we're going to top that."

For 2012, $55,000 of the indigent services budget is designated for burials.

"A lot of people think that it's the county that you live in that's responsible for the indigent burial but it's not," Artemis said. "It's the county that you pass away in [that's responsible]. A lot of people in Bartow County go to Floyd or Kennestone and [the family] gets upset when they pass away and the county can't do the burial."

When a serious illness is presented and an indigent person resides in the more rural areas of the county, help may be offered by the road department if the resident's driveway is difficult to navigate.

"If someone meets the income guideline and lives out in the country and their driveway is bad in the county and they have a serious illness where they have a hospice nurse, ambulance or there's been a death in the family, we go out and look at it," Artemis said. "If their driveway's in a mess, we can contact the road department and get it repaired."

Following a fire or severe storm, assistance may be provided through the solid waste department as well.

"If someone's home burned or they've got some storm damage, and they don't have the insurance or the funds to rent a dumpster, the county will provide one and will waive the tipping fees," Artemis said. "But it's got to be storm-related or a fire and they cannot have insurance."

The indigent services department also serves to assist people who cannot afford certain things such as medication or other items in obtaining those needs. However, there are some services that the department cannot provide, causing them to refer Bartow citizens to other offices.

"Sometimes we refer people to Bartow Health Access if [they have a minor illness] like the flu or a cold," Artemis said. "But if it could be a life-threatening situation such as diabetes and they have a history of it, or a history of high blood pressure, [we try to help more]."

When residents require medication for a serious illness, such as diabetes, and they must see a doctor before receiving a renewed prescription, Artemis and her department can help them find a service that will provide the prescription. If residents cannot afford to pick up the prescriptions, a voucher can be received only once to obtain prescriptions from a local pharmacy. Beyond the one voucher, Van Linden said she has helped people receive their medication, sometimes for free up to a year, from the pharmaceutical companies.

Although prisoners held in the Bartow County Jail receive medical care within the facility, if a prisoner must be treated by an outside physician, the indigent services department helps them receive care at a reduced rate.

"They do have medical at the jail," Artemis said, "but sometimes it's out of the realm of what they can do, and when they have to send them outside, we try to work with whatever doctor or facility to get the rates lowered."

While $95,000 is budgeted for hospital charges, the county has not had to pay that amount in the past two years.

"It's to help toward indigents that go to Cartersville Medical Center, but if they have received enough Medicaid patients, then they get a grant from the Georgia Defense Fund," Artemis said. "If they get money from them, then the county doesn't have to pay it. The last two years they have [gotten that fund] and we haven't paid it. Until that time we've paid it every year, but that's just if they don't get it from the [state] indigent fund then we send it."

The department also refers people to the Lion's Club to receive eye glasses if the person in need knows their prescription. For hearing aids and surgeries people are referred to an Atlanta office.

Locally, though, the department has $35,400 set aside for assistance given to the Department of Family and Children Services for indigent children that are in the care of foster parents. Chief Financial Officer Jo Taylor explained that the county gives a specified amount to the department each month to provide reimbursement to foster parents caring for indigent children when they need clothing, haircuts or any other items necessary for their care.

For children, Van Linden also works with the parks and recreation department to screen families for scholarships to allow children to participate in sports programs.

"They help the underprivileged children," Van Linden said. "[The recreation department] used to give them readily, but now we screen to make sure everyone's qualified and let them know can get a scholarship of [a certain amount]."

Total, the four full-time and one part-time employees divided amongst the three offices receive $157,000 for their salaries and furloughs are taken as well.

Assistance through indigent services can be found at their main office on North Bartow Street or at the Bartow Community Services office in Adairsville or the Resource Center in Cartersville.

Although the senior center offers different types of services, the department's $485,400 budget is stretched to cover the salaries of eight employees as well as the many programs and activities in which Bartow seniors participate.

"We have a bus driver, an administrative assistant at each [of the two centers,] a programs coordinator and a director," Senior Services Director Andy Findley said. "We take one furlough each month per employee."

Salaries account for $225,000 of the budget, which, total, has increased $6,700 from last year.

The centers, located at 33 Beavers Drive and 102 Zena Drive, offer an array of activities and services ranging from trips to assistance with filing taxes.

"Both of our senior centers are equipped with a workout room," Findley said. "We have two pool tables, we have a living room that has a library of books, it's got cable television that's donated by Comcast. We play cards like canasta and bridge. We have line dance groups, we have regular dance groups and we have people that volunteer their time to teach the line dances."

In the budget, $5,000 is designated for special program supplies that helps fund the many activities as well as potluck lunches held on Tuesdays and Thursdays along with gala luncheons. The center hosts a ballroom dance once a month on a Friday night and takes one trip each month as well.

As part of their services, Joyce Mays, program director, said the center offers assistance for filing taxes as well as blood pressure checks and hearing tests. Legal aid is provided through Bartow Triad for seniors who wish to talk about living wills and other legal matters and a driving course is offered through the AARP.