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The Gila community still has concerns and unanswered questions about our senior services. As you recall, Mr. Otero promised to return to Gila to address unanswered questions, such as specifics on how preparing meals in Silver City for Gila seniors and making a daily 60-mile round trip delivery would be more cost efficient than cooking it on the premises. He and Edith Lee also did not have answers to the health concerns regarding transporting cooked food that distance and the specific food safety concerns of older adults and people dealing with chronic illness. See: https://www.foodsafety.gov/risk/olderadults/index.html 

The Gila Senior Center has inadequate offerings compared to other senior centers. For example, Lordsburg offers a cold breakfast, a hot lunch at the center or delivered to home-bound seniors, frozen or shelf-stable meals delivered for weekends or holidays, Bingo, Zumba, holiday picnics and celebrations, nutrition education classes, and transportation for residents for errands, medical appointments, or shopping upon request. It also arranges field trips to facilities or events.

The Gila Senior Center has offered a hot meal cooked and served at the center and delivered to homebound seniors five days a week and a weekly Bingo game that takes place after lunch and extends until 3 in the afternoon one day a week. These meager services are being cut by HMS immediately after taking over the senior centers from the county. Currently, there is no driver to deliver meals to homebound elders in need. HMS is not allowing the extra hour one day a week for the only entertainment offered, and they are providing food that will be kept warm for an hour or more or cooked and cooled and reheated (they didn’t know exactly how they were going to do it when they were at the meeting in Gila). These cutbacks from little to less are happening despite objections by the community and many attempts to convince HMS that the community is willing to partner with them to maintain and possibly expand local services.

When I spoke with Ms. Hunter, Senior Services Program Manager, yesterday she commented that the local bingo players would “be mad” about the center closing at 2 in the afternoon on Bingo day. Rather than finding a way to keep the center open that one hour on that one day a week for Bingo and continuing to cook food on the premises, HMS is determined to move forward with a plan that is in direct opposition to the needs and desires of the community and HMS’s mission to "positively impact the health, well-being and quality of life for those we serve."

There does not appear to be sufficient reasons to expose people to greater risks. People in the community have asked HMS to demonstrate the need to transport food and to show how every possible precaution is implemented to address the added risks to this vulnerable population.

Sincerely,

Joanne DeMichele

Gila, NM

Live from Silver City

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