On Thursday, Sept. 3, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners gave the green light to enhance the visibility of the county’s Aging Services program - currently provided by the Department of Human Services - by changing that department’s name and reassigning some of the department’s non-aging services to another county department.
The Department of Human Services currently provides four distinct program areas: Aging Services (including Nutrition Services), Housing Services, Outreach and Accessibility Services, and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Administration.
Following a public hearing on Thursday, the BOCC approved two key recommendations by the county manager, including:
• The transfer of the Housing Services and CDBG Administration responsibilities, including approximately 24 employees and budget authority, to the Planning, Development and Codes Department.
• The renaming of the Department of Human Services to the Department of Aging and Human Services. Aging Services (including Nutrition Services) and Outreach and Accessibility Services will remain with the department.
“The Human Services Department has a proud 40-year history of providing crucial services to some of our most vulnerable populations. Now, the Department of Aging and Human Services, with its increased emphasis on older adults, will help us serve our community well into the future,” said Debbie Collins, department director.
Chairman Ed Eilert agreed.
“The name change re-establishes aging as an important, more visible role of the department to residents of all ages in Johnson County, including a steady population growth of older adults,” he said. “The need for aging services has and will continue to increase in Johnson County.”
Moving Housing Services and CDBG into the Planning Department will provide a direct link to Transit which also resides in this department, consolidate inspection staff and leverage the experience in the Planning Department for implementing housing programs. The changes are expected to be completed by year’s end.
The approval caps an almost yearlong focus on planning for the future of Johnson County’s senior population as part of a BOCC priority to enhance services and programs for aging and vulnerable populations. The tasks included a forum in October 2019 by the Commission on Aging.
In May, the BOCC directed the County Manager’s Office to prepare a report and recommendations to restructure the Department of Human Services and to enhance Aging Services and programs for a more focused approach to serve the future needs of the county’s older population.
A series of meetings with Aging Services employees occurred in June to assist with the review of the operations. One of the recommendations from employees was to change the title of the department to highlight Aging Services and provide more emphasis on the growing needs of seniors. The review was completed and presented to the board on July 23, leading to the recommendations approved Thursday by the BOCC.
Johnson County Government’s long-standing commitment to aging services goes back to the passage of the Older Americans Act of 1965. Between the passage of the Act to 1979, Johnson County was part of an organization of seven counties providing the services outlined in the Act.
In 1982, the BOCC combined aging services with other human services provided by the county, creating the Human Resources and Aging Department, later renamed the Human Services and Aging Department (HSA) in 1993. The county added Housing Services to the department in 1985. HSA was changed to the Department of Human Services in 2009.
Projections of residents over the age of 60 in Johnson County show dramatic increases. From 2010 to 2020 the increase is 40,412 (129,927 total), a 45% increase and by 2030 the projected increase is 41,000, a 31% increase.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one of five Americans will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030 and represent the fastest growing demographic segment of the U.S. population.