Rather than have a staff member provide senior services, the village of Morton Grove is looking at having a specialized agency provide them.
Contracting with North Shore Senior Center would provide a greater range of services and more hours of service at a lower cost than the former arrangement, which was to have a staff member devote a portion of her hours to providing such services, said Village Manager Ryan Horne.
"These are services we can receive from a vendor, which has highly trained and professional staff," Horne said. "It's more efficient, and a better use of taxpayers' money."
Horne presented information about NSSC at Monday's village board meeting, and Liz Gordon and Mary Senn of the center appeared at the podium to answer questions. The village is also considering having NSSC provide social services, including financial and therapeutic counseling, to people of all ages, not just seniors.
While many of the village trustees, including John Thill and Shel Marcus, said North Shore impressed them as professional and uniquely suited to filling the village's needs, Trustees Dan DiMaria and Bill Grear expressed anger they were not kept informed on the village's options for the future of its senior services.
What North Shore would offer
North Shore is currently offering senior and social services in Morton Grove on a month-to-month contract, Horne said in a brief presentation.
He explained the village could contract on a more long-term basis with the agency for some or all of the following services:
- Lifelong learning programs, including a wide range of informational and recreational programs and activities.
- A full range of social services for all age groups, including a support group for caregivers, help with Medicare forms, and help with applications for assistance with energy bills (for low-income individuals). Mary Senn, LCSW, a social worker, would lead many of the programs.
- 24/7 crisis management services available to police and fire personnel, including translation to/from foreign languages.
- Help directing people who need financial assistance to the Salvation Army and other agencies which provide it.
- Help filling out applications for a wide range of needs.
- Coordination of health screenings for blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
- Managing the Morton Grove Chore Program, which matches seniors who need chores done with youth looking for odd jobs.
- Wellness Program in Russian, Korean and English.
- Community Education presentations on topics such as Medicare Open Enrollment, property tax appeals, etc.
- Presentations to Morton Grove village employees on dealing with residents with mental health issues and other pertinent topics.
- Presentations to local community groups and schools.
- A representative would serve on the Morton Grove Commission on Aging.
- NSSC would coordinate services with Turning Point (mental health agency), the Salvation Army and Niles Township.
Trustee wanted info earlier in process
After confirming with Gordon and Senn that North Shore would offer counseling services to people of all ages, not just seniors, Trustee DiMaria said, "This presentation is wonderful and it’s nice to know about a company that ‘s helping out the village, and this is not about you ladies, but why wasn’t this presented to us earlier? This is after the fact, that’s the problem for me."
DiMaria said residents had asked him at Christmas time what was going on with the senior center, and he said he wished staff had kept trustees more informed at that time.
He also expressed concern that the village was not entertaining bids from other providers.
"We haven’t seen any comparable bids, service structures, that’s what’s bothering me," he said.
Trustee Grear said he was also bothered by the lack of information.
Trustee Marcus responded that basically no other provider could offer this range of services.
"There are not a lot of organizations out there that provide the wide range of services we are looking for," he said. "We are blessed we have someone in our area that provides the kind of services we are looking for. When it came down to which one provided the widest scope, it came down to North Shore Senior Services.
"It’s a very professional operation, and the fact they are able to provide these extra services, I think it’s a very good move."
Trustees did not vote or take formal action on contracting with North Shore Senior Center at Monday's meeting; the month-to-month contract remains in place for the time being.