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Archive for Tuesday, April 6, 1999

SERVING SENIORS

April 6, 1999

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Douglas County Senior Services appears to be overcoming the problems that created controversy in the agency a year ago.

It's great to see that Douglas County Senior Services apparently is getting back on track.

A year ago, the agency was mired in financial problems and receiving complaints about services. One staff member had filed a lawsuit claiming that he was dismissed from the agency without due process, and another staff member had filed a complaint with the city's human relations office over a gift from the DCSS executive director that she believed displayed racial bias.

The executive director resigned, and an interim director was hired. The situation at the agency was unsettled and pessimistic.

Now, enthusiastic would seem to be a better term. Kansas University's Gerontology Center released results of a client survey last week that painted a much brighter picture for DCSS. People who eat meals at DCSS sites and use transportation services were overwhelming satisfied with those services. About 92 percent of the people who participated in agency-sponsored trips and tours were satisfied with their experience. These are the people DCSS exists to serve, and if they are happy, it's a pretty good sign that the agency is doing its job.

Credit for the new attitude apparently is shared by a number of individuals. Interim director Robert LeGresley ably led DCSS until a permanent director could be hired. The new executive director, Jessie Ann Lusher, appears to be approaching her job with energy and authority. Increasing funding for DCSS and making basic changes such as upgrading the agency's computers are top priorities.

The role of the volunteer DCSS board of directors also has been important. It's easy to be a board member of an agency that is running smoothly and not creating controversy. But when an agency gets in trouble, the board members have to take on more responsibility. The DCSS board, led last year by Mercantile Bank president Chuck Warner and currently by former state Rep. John Solbach, apparently dug in and took on that responsibility. Board members took the action and hired the new staff that was required to put DCSS back on a firm footing.

DCSS provides a variety of vital services for the county's elderly population. They provide services, such as transportation, meals and adult day care, that some clients couldn't live without. To others they offer social and recreational outlets that make their lives better.

It's a big job that demands not only the hard work of the agency staff but the support of the community it serves. Hopefully this is the beginning of a successful and progressive new era for Douglas County Senior Services.

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