OFA to get $200K federal windfall

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Office for Aging will receive a $200,000 boost for its operation in the next year through a new federal initiative related to Obamacare, an official said.

OFA Director Andrea Fettinger said the money through the Balanced Incentive Program, or BIP initiative, will go directly into the OFA’s operation and enhance the “work we already do,” through information and referrals with other area agencies, such as mental health agencies and Lexington Center.

“For us, that’s all we can ask for,” Fettinger said.

Fettinger outlined the new BIP funding for 2014-15 for the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

Later, Fettinger said she expects the OFA will receive about $200,000 for a period covering this year and next. She said there is potentially funding for more years, although a timeline hasn’t been fleshed out.

“For the Office for Aging, it’s welcome dollars,” she stated.

Fettinger said BIP is funding created via the federal Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare. She said it was developed through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create a “better balance” between non-institutional home and community-based long-term services, and institutional care such as nursing homes.

Fettinger said OFAs across the state will use the BIP funds for their basic operations and staffing to assist outside agencies. She said in Fulton County, this funding supports continued collaborations with social services, Lexington Center and mental health agencies. She said the collaboration involves review of new information and strengthening assistance.

The BIP initiative, according to information provided by Fettinger, awarded New York state $598.7 million. A portion of the funding will be used to expand NY Connects, an information and referral service mostly operated by local offices for aging. The state OFA estimates that 25 percent of people who contact NY Connects over the course of a year are Medicaid recipients eligible for the Medicaid program.

According to the BIP work plan, a new system for NY Connects will be implemented and tested by Feb. 28, going live on Aug. 31, 2015.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com