(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) to create a pilot program that would provide social, health and mental care services to communities with large elderly populations was approved 47-28-3 by the Assembly this week.
This bill (A-353) establishes a “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community” or “NORC” pilot program in the Division of Aging and Community Services in the Department of Health and Senior Services. Unlike housing built specifically for elderly residents, a NORC is a residential area with a high concentration of elderly residents who are aging in place in their communities.
“Not everyone wants to move into senior housing or an assisted living facility. Many residents would rather stay in their homes, but need additional assistance to maintain their independence as they grow older,” said Gusciora. “This pilot program would allow these residents to stay in their homes and have the type of services they would benefit from in an assisted living facility delivered to them.”
The housing in a NORC is moderate or low-income housing and differs from senior-designated housing because it was not originally built as housing for the elderly; NORC housing is age-integrated but more than 50 percent of the households are headed by a person 60 years of age or older.
Under the provisions of the bill, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services would provide a grant to a lead agency to establish and coordinate a NORC at a senior center in Mercer County, or one or more moderate or low-income apartment buildings or housing complexes in Mercer County, or within a selected defined community in Mercer County in which at least 50 percent of the households are headed by a person who is 60 years of age or older.
The lead agency would administer the overall fiscal, managerial and programmatic responsibilities of the pilot program and recruit and coordinate the services of program partners.
The pilot program would provide:
- social services, including, but not limited to, on-site assessments, information and referral services, case management, counseling, recreation and socialization programs, management of volunteer programs, support groups, and education programs that help elderly residents preserve their health;
- health care services, including, but not limited to: on-site nursing and physician services; health screenings and monitoring; and medication management;
- mental health services, including, but not limited to: a consulting psychiatrist to assess, diagnose and treat residents and educate other professional staff, patients, caregivers and families to detect and assess mental health needs; and mental health screening by a social worker or registered professional nurse; and
- support services, including, but not limited to, transportation services and assistance with shopping and financial management.
“The transition to old age can be difficult for many elderly residents. NORCs help seniors stay connected and be vibrant members of their community,” said Gusciora. “Making these services available to these communities allows these residents to maintain their independence and lead healthy and productive lives. This is a great way to serve an aging population that continues to grow.”
The bill requires the lead agency to periodically report to the commissioner on the establishment of the pilot program and its impact on the well-being of the residents. The commissioner would report to the governor and the Legislature on the pilot program within two years of its implementation and make any recommendations to expand the program to other counties in the state.
The bill provides a $250,000 appropriation from the General Fund to the department to award a grant under the bill.
The bill now awaits further consideration by the Senate.