Community Services Director: Long-term care manageable

Community Services Director Scott Morgan leads a toast to Douglas County volunteer Bob Cook during a celebration of life held on Saturday at the Community & Senior Center in Gardnerville.

Community Services Director Scott Morgan leads a toast to Douglas County volunteer Bob Cook during a celebration of life held on Saturday at the Community & Senior Center in Gardnerville.
Jay Aldrich | Special to The R-C

Keeping people in their homes as they age, and eventually pass on to the great beyond, has been the life goal for Community Services Director Scott Morgan.

“It’s a common occurrence down at the senior center for someone to come in and say ‘Guess what? George passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones.’” Morgan said. “And we all say, ‘That’s really sad,’ but inside I’m saying ‘Yes! Goal accomplished.’ That’s how we all should go. Nobody wants to go to an institution.”

Morgan, who is essentially an institution, came to work for Douglas County in January 1994 as the county’s first new director of Parks and Recreation after the county combined them long before anyone had ever heard of Leslie Knope.

Thursday is likely the last time Morgan will take the microphone at a budget hearing, and he used that time to evangelize the county’s long-term care program.

“I call it the great experiment,” he told commissioners on Thursday. “Not only have we succeeded in controlling our long-term care costs, but we have controlled and contained them and for the first time we have cut them again.”

Indigent long-term care has bankrupted one Nevada county after White Pine found itself in state receivership because its bill was bigger than it’s entire budget a dozen years ago.

That was a warning Morgan heeded.

“It has been my mission as director of this county department to do one thing, and that’s keep people in their own homes as long as possible,” he said. “Once social services was put in the department, it became a real opportunity to coordinate services to try and make a difference. This program we have put together, will in 10 years, pay completely for the building that we constructed that houses this model.”

Morgan said the state estimates Douglas saves $2 million a year for long-term care by taking a holistic view.

“It starts with the homemaker program, it starts with the DART buses and Meals on Wheels, the senior program, the senior recreation program,” he said. “it starts with keeping our families healthy so they have the ability to take care of loved ones instead of shipping them off to an institution. And it finishes with adult day care.”

Morgan said that’s how Douglas has managed to not only keep costs down, but programs humane.

Douglas County has one of the oldest populations in Nevada and yet has one of the lowest costs for long-term care.

“It shocks me that other organizations in the state just calmly pay this bill,” he said. “This is a manageable program any agency can adopt to serve their residents. The quality of life and humanity it provides to families is also a byproduct that’s hard to measure other than it really feels good.”

Funding the program is the .015-cent state motor vehicle accident-indigent fund, which was authorized in 1983 as a means to pay the medical bills of people who got hit jaywalking in Clark County, Morgan said.

That wasn’t much of a problem for the rest of the state, so it morphed into an insurance fund used to help pay to care for indigent seniors. There are 20-25 people in the county’s adult day care system who might otherwise be going into long-term care.

“Every single one of them who ends up going into long-term care have a high probability of ending up on our tax bills and being paid for by the people of Douglas County,” Morgan said. “Whatever we can do to keep people out of long-term care and becoming indigent, because it doesn’t take much to deplete all your financial resources, we save the taxpayers.”


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