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State Plan Seeks To Privatize Some Aging Services, Draws Criticism

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers are concerned about a plan to move some responsibilities from local Area Agencies on Aging to a private company.

On today’s program: The State Department of Human Services plans to move some responsibilities currently handled by local Area Agencies on Aging to a private company, Maximus, despite concern from advocates and bipartisan coalition of legislators; Kurtis Menniti from Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. explains how the organization’s pardon hub helps those previously incarcerated apply to clear their criminal records; and how compassion fatigue impacts educators and caregivers for young children.

Private company Maximus might soon handle some aging services
(0:00 — 5:15)

The Wolf administration plans to transfer some services currently provided by Area Agencies on Aging to a for-profit company called Maximus, but the move has drawn bipartisan criticism from lawmakers and advocates.

“This company [Maximus] is a really large international human services company,” says WESA reporter Kate Giammarise.

The proposed plan is to have Maximus handle the financial and clinical assessment the agencies typically conduct when a senior citizen wants to apply for Medicaid-funded assistance.

“In 2016, when Maximus took over the enrollment portion of this service, there was a lot of criticism of how they were handling it,” says Giammarise. “There were legislative hearings, state legislators said they were inundated with constituent calls, and I think that this experience is partly why there is so much pushback on this right now.”

Giammarise says there are concerns that citizens who need services could face delays and disruption in care.

Groups of Republican and Democratic legislators have both urged the Wolf Administration to reconsider the plan. So far, Giammarise says the State Department of Human Services has only said that a final agreement has not yet been signed.

Local pardon hub helps those with criminal records
(5:20 - 11:47)

For people with criminal records, acquiring jobs or housing can be made more difficult due to background checks that reveal their past. Over the last year, Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc (PCSI) began a pardon hub to help those with records who have completed their sentences apply for a pardon.

“The system seems very overwhelming,” says Kurtis Mennitti, a job developer with PCSI. “It can really make a person feel like their back's against the wall, and they have no opportunities.”

For those with non-sexual, non-violent offenses who have completed their sentencing within the last four to five years, a pardon could erase certain parts of their criminal record. The individual would not have to disclose their record in the future.

The pardon requires an application and documentation of one’s background and offense, and it can take up to two years before someone receives or is denied a pardon.

“When we start holding people accountable beyond what their sentencing is,” asks Mennitti, “are we really allowing that person to move on and really change their life, and show society that they are not who they were potentially 10, 15, 20 years ago?”

Compassion fatigue is taking a toll on caregivers and educators
(11:57 — 18:00)

It’s been a difficult year, and for those that aid, teach and care for others, they expend a lot of energy on compassion, which can be especially draining.

Jan Sapotichne, associate executive director of Trying Together, a nonprofit focused on childcare and education for young children, says compassion fatigue can manifest in many different ways: “Not looking forward to the day, being tired, not having the patience for the children that they might typically have.”

Sapotichne says acknowledging the issue is critical, and those experiencing compassion fatigue can give themselves grace, and remember the work they do is valuable to the community.

“They are working with our youngest children,” says Sapotichne. “We need to support and value and recognize and acknowledge that important work, so I think to be able to say that they are struggling with something called compassion fatigue is our way of really focusing on the needs of the caregivers.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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