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Senior Citizens' Health Fair showcases services, highlights budget fallout

Fair showcases services, highlights budget fallout

DeKALB – Scores of seniors perused tables at the senior fair hosted Thursday by local legislators and the Family Service Agency.

The annual event, held at DeKalb High School, featured vendors representing services and products related to the elderly.

Seniors were offered several health screenings, including blood pressure and hearing, for free. The event drew people such as 78-year-old Margo Hazlewood and her 77-year-old husband, Don, who is diabetic. They were looking for a foot doctor for Don and were pleased to find a podiatrist.

Roger Eberly, 78, stopped at the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs table and leafed through a booklet of information that was laid out.

The retired Illinois National Guardsman said he was at the fair learning about elderly care and services in case he needs any of it in the future. He said he’s fine now, but he wants to be prepared and armed with information “just in case.”

“When you reach a certain age, you want to check on this and check on that,” he said. 

State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, said he started the event when he was a freshman representative – more than a decade ago. The 70-year-old legislator said the county has a “plethora” of services but often people don’t know about them. He feels the fair is an efficient way of informing constituents.

“They may not need [a service] today, but when they do, they will know where there is assistance,” Pritchard said.

Some of the seniors at the event were concerned about the state’s budget stalemate and proposed cuts to programs benefiting the elderly and people with disabilities.

“It looks like they’re cutting back on a whole bunch of stuff,” Margo Hazlewood said. “Some people need [assistance] more than I do right now. … Taking that away from them must be hard.”

Eberly said he’s “hoping for the best” with the gridlock in Springfield. He knows people who have lost their jobs and been “hurt” because of the budget issues. He’s sympathetic to them but also feels that if the state continues its current spending habits “it’s going to cost [taxpayers] more.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed cuts to the Illinois Department on Aging, which oversees programs and services related to seniors, including changing the determination of needs criteria.

The state uses the determination of needs criteria to help determine an individual’s eligibility for service.

Democrats continue to balk at the governor’s fiscal plans, although the spending bill they passed in May included a $4 billion deficit. Rauner vetoed it.

The impasse has affected nonprofit organizations that don’t know yet how much funding they could lose with the state’s fiscal 2016 budget, and can’t be paid for services they perform until a plan is in place.

“I’m afraid in this budget discussion, and the delays we hear are going to happen, that a lot of the nonprofits are going to go out of business,” Pritchard said. “If you go [too] long, people aren’t going to be able to continue their services.

“They’re not going to be able to have long enough lines of credit. And that’s where we’re really going to see some permanent effects of this gridlock we’re experiencing in Springfield.”

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