Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communications Office
Governor Fletcher Announces New Agency Focusing on Aging, Disabilities Issues

Press Release Date:  Thursday, December 21, 2006  
Contact Information:  Jodi Whitaker

Vikki Franklin

Department for Aging and Independent Living will raise profile, strengthen voice of special populations

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today signed an executive order creating the Department for Aging and Independent Living to centralize policy coordination, services and leadership on issues related to older Kentuckians and people with physical disabilities.

The Department for Aging and Independent Living will focus on serving the needs and enhancing the independent living opportunities of Kentucky’s elders and people with physical disabilities.

“This new department will better ensure that Kentucky’s seniors and individuals with disabilities have the services and resources they need to live independently and with dignity,” Governor Fletcher said. “It will help ensure they have a quality life as well as quality care.”

The department will be part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and replaces the former Division for Aging Services.

CHFS Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell said the new agency’s status as a stand-alone cabinet department will help raise the profile and influence of both the agency’s work and constituency.

“In 2011, the first of the baby boom generation will reach retirement age,” Birdwhistell said. “This significant segment of the state’s population will want access to services, supports, advocacy and opportunities to continue to work, engage in community activities and enjoy as much independence as possible for as long as possible. The mission of the department will be to respond to those expectations.”

The Department for Aging and Independent Living will continue to provide the programs and services currently available to elders and people with physical disabilities while expanding its focus to include new ventures as needs are identified.

“Kentucky is fortunate to have public resources like the Special Advisory Commission of Senior Citizens, the Institute for Aging and academic research organizations, as well as respected private advocacy groups like the AARP to provide insight and advice on issues of importance to our elders and people with disabilities,” Governor Fletcher said.

Another of the department’s core functions will focus on Kentuckians with physical disabilities who are currently living with and being cared for by aging parents and others. As those caregivers become unable to provide the required level of care, the department will marshal resources and tools to help people with disabilities transition to the most appropriate and least restrictive care environments for their needs.

“We will soon experience an increase in the number of people needing our services,” Birdwhistell said. “Before that happens, we need to establish a streamlined process and single point of entry to Medicaid and other vital programs to help make that transition as smooth and effortless as possible. This new agency will play a major role in achieving that and other goals.”

The Department for Aging and Independent Living also will collaborate with other cabinet and external agencies serving persons with mental health and other types of disabilities.

Since assuming office in 2003, Governor Fletcher’s administration has supported and played a key role in addressing immediate and long-term issues impacting the quality of life and care for Kentucky seniors and people with disabilities:

  • Approved a budget with an additional $7.5 million over the 2007-08 biennium to expand and improve the Personal Care Attendant Program, adult day services, in-home services and home-delivered meals; and
  • Another $3.25 million over the biennium to the Kentucky Caregiver Grandparents Program to help support and provide needed services to grandparents raising their grandchildren.
  • Launched the three-year Kentucky Elder Readiness Initiative to assess community preparedness to cope with the enormous changes predicted as the baby boom generation ages. KERI findings will be used to help communities minimize the challenges and maximize the opportunities of a rapidly growing elder population.
  • Funded the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center pilot project currently under way in Northern Kentucky to establish a statewide one-stop information and assistance program for individuals and families seeking long-term care services and options.
  • Appointed eight new members to the state Institute on Aging and established the new Subcommittee on the White House Conference on Aging to further help guide aging policy and service delivery for elder Kentuckians.