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Listening Sessions Scheduled for Improving Department of Health Services

There are 66,000 unpaid caregivers in Wyoming providing care to a loved one or neighbor at no cost. This translates into 62 million hours of care and $817 million per year. (Myfuture/Flickr)
There are 66,000 unpaid caregivers in Wyoming providing care to a loved one or neighbor at no cost. This translates into 62 million hours of care and $817 million per year. (Myfuture/Flickr)
May 16, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Tapping years of customer service experience, the Wyoming Department of Health's new director Mike Ceballos is going directly to state residents to learn what's working and where improvements are needed.

The agency kicked off a series of listening sessions last month in Wheatland, where residents cited a need for home and community-based services, and additional behavioral and substance abuse care.

Tom Lacock, associate state director for AARP Wyoming, is encouraging his members to share their expertise on the best ways to support in-home caregivers as one way to avoid long-term care.

"We also know that it's a big cost to the state,” he points out. “So, it really becomes mutually beneficial if we can find those areas where we can support caregivers, and I know the Department of Health has done a fantastic job looking in that direction."

Lacock says an increasing number of residents prefer to age in home, which also can help save taxpayer dollars.

Last year, long-term care cost Wyoming nearly $138 million, and the Department of Health projects that number could rise as high as $312 million over the next decade.

State lawmakers are sympathetic to the need to support caregivers, but have cited limited resources as the biggest challenge to investing more.

Ceballos has his hands full running an agency with a biennial budget hovering around $2 billion. The listening sessions are intended to help the department decide if it needs to adjust spending to meet statewide and individual community needs.

Lacock says agency officials and many state lawmakers have their own caretaker stories and understand the need.

"The state's been struggling with severance taxes from the extractive services, and we're certainly sensitive to that,” he states. “By the same token, we also think that paying a little more for home services on the front end will save on the back end. That's kind of our hope."

The next session is set for May 30 in Laramie, and officials will travel to Casper College on June 4.

The agency hopes to schedule public meetings in up to 30 communities over the next two years.

Stay tuned to AARP's social media platforms for new sessions as they are added, or visit the Wyoming Department of Health online.

Disclosure: AARP Wyoming contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY