BOISE -- Starting next week, the state will take charge of coordinating care and resources for thousands of elderly and vulnerable people in southwest Idaho.
The change comes after 24 years of management by a non-profit group, and even the governor is weighing in on the change.
Right now, the Agency on Aging serving southwest Idaho coordinates services for seniors and other vulnerable adults in 10 counties. That agency falls under the Idaho Council of Governments, also known as ICOG.
One of the programs the agency works with is Metro Meals on Wheels. But that won't be the case for much longer.
It's a very problematic situation where the seniors at risk are really at risk, said David Leroy, ICOG's attorney.
ICOG is a non-profit, but its agency runs in large part due to state and federal grant money provided through a contract with the Idaho Commission on Aging. Late last month, the state office announced it was not renewing its contract with the Area Agency on Aging serving Southwest Idaho because of serious deficiencies in the administration. According to Leroy, that contract makes up about 90 percent of ICOG's operations. It's worth millions of dollars.
The government is not very effective when it becomes a personality battle, Leroy said.
He's talking about a clash between the two groups' leaders. Both sides are pointing fingers at each other. In a letter of action, Idaho Commission on Aging officials cite mismanagement and an unwillingness to work together as reasons the change is being made.
ICOG officials say the conflict started after they spoke up about a possibly faulty funding formula used by the state to distribute money to aging agencies.
It's taken us 24 years to build this service providing agency, Leroy said. To have it dismembered at midnight or 5:00 p.m. on Monday is of course of great concern to us, to the employees who no longer have a job.
He says two dozen employees are on the chopping block. But a bigger concern for the non-profit is the quality of care provided to the thousands of people the agency currently serves.
Governor Butch Otter says the state is worried about that, too.
Whatever happens in the future, I've asked for it to be seamless. We have to take care of those seniors, Otter said. They have to have a high level of confidence that what they had before is not going to be interrupted.
The state says it has already set up a new office and hired staff, including some current ICOG employees.
Idaho Commission on Aging administrator Sam Haws wrote in an email, that her agency was working to make the transition easy.
My entire time and attention is currently being dedicated to ensure the smooth transition of services, she wrote. Our clients are our number one priority.
Haws added that the transition plan includes securing the building, hiring staff, installing equipment and training employees. She noted that a transition meeting was held with the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Idaho for the transfer of records and equipment, but did not elaborate further.
But ICOG representatives are worried there's just not enough time to make that happen.
It's an open question what will happen to these services, to these seniors, Leroy said. Hopefully, the state will take it over seamlessly and successfully.
Meanwhile, ICOG has also filed a lawsuit in federal court asking a judge to decide if the Idaho Commission on Aging's funding formula is correct. That's still playing out.
The attorney representing Otter and the state declined to comment due to the pending litigation.
Haws says the interim office for senior services is located at 701 South Allen Street in Meridian. It's across the street from St. Luke's. It will open July 1.
those with questions can call 208-332-1745 or 1-844-689-7652.