Senior, disability service center cuts back travel

A Kenai Peninsula based senior and disability resource center will cut its travels in half, following a hit from federal sequestration.

The Independent Living Center serves the peninsula, Kodiak and the Valdez-Cordova Census area. The center helps the aging or impaired transition to homes, apply for social security, or find the correct slope for a wheelchair ramp or proper equipment to correct their disability, among other information and referral services.

Peninsula residents will see no change in their services, as the center holds offices in Soldotna, Homer and Seward. But Valdez-Cordova area residents will, said Joyanna Geisler, the center’s executive director.

“The quality of our services is diminished. … The number of services we provide is going to be diminished,” Geisler said.

Of the center’s $1.1 million budget this year, federal sequestration cut 5 percent, she said. The center subtracted the $18,000 loss from its travel fund, said Lori Engler, aging and disability resource specialist for the Soldotna center. The organization’s annual travel budget is $35,000, Geisler said.

Two years ago, the center traveled to the Valdez-Cordova area four times, she said. This year it can only afford two trips, she said.

“That was a huge loss for us,” she said. “The only wiggle room really is travel.”

Alaska funds two-thirds of the center’s annual budget — the federal government funds the rest — and she hopes state grants can offset the loss. The older blind grant last year was $58,000, she said.

The center also will video chat with its consumers, she said. But much of the center’s services hinge on personal contact. It is difficult helping a person decide which nursing home they should chose through the distance of a telephone. And an in-person visit is sometimes necessary for a modest but struggling senior, she said.

“Building a relationship,” she said, “is much easier if we’re in a home with a person.”