The Council on Older Persons (COOP) has been a standing committee of The Center for Community Solutions for more than 70 years. Each year brings new faces, new challenges and new opportunities. This year was no exception. Under the leadership of Chair Catherine Ciha and Vice Chair Stacey O’Brien, COOP continues to be a leading advocate for local seniors.
The organization maintained a healthy attendance at all of its meetings, and members heard presentations from city, county and state officials who have the potential to impact senior issues, including:
- Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, Cuyahoga County Council
- State Representative Stephanie Howse, on behalf of Ohio candidate for Governor, Richard Cordray
- Nick Phillips, on behalf of Ohio Attorney General Elect Dave Yost
- Ted Carter, Chief of Economic Development, Cuyahoga County
- Richard Jones and Paul Porter, Cuyahoga County Department of Senior and Adult Services
- Mary O’Shea, Director of Advocacy and Public Education, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank
- Mary McNamara, Director, City of Cleveland Department of Aging
- Liza Weitzman, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging
Reports from many Community Solutions staff members throughout the year provided statistics and expertise to better prepare COOP members to advocate for, and educate, seniors.
Under the leadership of Chair Catherine Ciha and Vice Chair Stacey O’Brien, COOP continues to be a leading advocate for local seniors.
COOP also hosted roundtables with both the Republican nominee for Ohio Attorney General, current State Auditor Dave Yost, and the Democratic nominee, former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach. The roundtables were hosted at Senior Transportation Connection, and the discussions centered on the Elder Abuse Commission, which is housed in the Ohio Attorney General’s office. Candidates also presented their own policy priorities on issues important to seniors.
“Senior problems are often everyone’s problems.
“It was important to COOP members for us to keep issues that matter most to seniors in the forefront during this year’s midterm election,” explained Ciha, who is also the Director of Development at Senior Transportation Connection. “Senior problems are often everyone’s problems: As the opioid crisis has grown, we see a connection to senior abuse and neglect. Food bank programs are seeing more and more seniors who go hungry. COOP is able to help everyone see a more complete picture through our advocacy and education. We look forward to continuing those community conversations.”
COOP is able to help everyone see a more complete picture through our advocacy and education. We look forward to continuing those community conversations.
COOP also presented to the Health and Human Services Committee of Cleveland City Council, chaired by City Councilman Blaine Griffin. COOP members Debra Mardenborough White and Katie Boland were asked to speak about their experiences serving seniors in the Hough neighborhood.
COOP leadership also provided testimony to the Cuyahoga County Health, Human Services and Aging (HHSA) Committee, and invited committee members to attend COOP meetings. HHSA Committee Chair County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell, stopped by the next COOP meeting immediately after that testimony.
Through engagement in legislative and election initiatives at the local and state levels, COOP has helped to facilitate improved well-being and quality of life for older adults across Ohio.
“Over the course of the year, COOP members have made substantial contributions to aging policy and practice in Cuyahoga County,” added O’Brien. “Through engagement in legislative and election initiatives at the local and state levels, COOP has helped to facilitate improved well-being and quality of life for older adults across Ohio. Membership is looking forward to a full year of advocacy, education and continued commitment to the older adults that make up the communities of Northeast Ohio.”
Under the leadership of Program Chair Marsha Blanks, in addition to general body presenters and events, COOP organized a “Coffee with the County” event, a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Department of Senior and Adult Services, Cuyahoga County Council and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County. The moderator for the event was Emily Campbell, Community Solutions’ associate director. More than 75 citizens, political candidates and senior advocates attended.
“COOP is one-of-a-kind in its ability to bring together stakeholders from across the city and county, to communicate the pressing needs that face Ohio’s seniors. As always, the best is yet to come.”
Under the leadership of co-chairs Denise Rucker-Burton and Yvonne Oliver, the legislative committee kept up with numerous issues such as food insecurity, transportation and other issues that are pertinent to the lives of seniors. For example, committee members and a COOP mentee (a professional new to the aging field), developed the 2018 Food Insecurity Advocacy Plan. This comprehensive effort created a multi-pronged approach to the issue, and included an internal tracking document on the issue of food insecurity for Greater Cleveland seniors. Under the plan, COOP tracked and continues to track the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization, which is pending in Congress. Additionally, a one-page fact sheet summary on food insecurity, was created by COOP members and was distributed to electoral candidates and elected officials.
The legislative committee also continues to track legislation at the state level, including House Bill 286, which would expand palliative care education and awareness in Ohio; and Senate Bill 158, which would increase penalties for those who financially exploit Ohio seniors. Ciha provided proponent testimony for Senate Bill 158 in front of the Ohio House Long Term Care and Aging Committee.
The COOP legislative committee also tracked the impact of the Managed Care Organization sales tax loss and its continued impact on Cuyahoga County and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. Committee members helped promote a statewide Facebook live broadcast of the two candidates for lieutenant governor, who participated in an aging advocacy discussion in Columbus. Locally, at the county level, the committee discussed the impact of Issue 9, the Health and Human Services Levy. At the city level, the committee discussed the allocation of $1.2 million from Cleveland City Council to assist seniors with home modifications to improve older adults’ ability to age in place.
Internally, COOP made several management advancements, including a comprehensive review of membership and welcoming several new members to the group. As COOP heads in to 2019, the leadership of the organization and committees within it remain steadfast. COOP’s mentorship program also continues to provide opportunities for new professionals to learn more about services for older adults.
With new state leadership, as well as an upcoming state and county budget processes, COOP is well positioned to engage with policymakers and advocates on senior issues.
“Through its efforts in 2018, COOP has positioned itself as a resource for information for policymakers, community organization and advocates,” explained Community Solutions’ President and Executive Director John Corlett. “COOP is one-of-a-kind in its ability to bring together stakeholders from across the city and county, to communicate the pressing needs that face Ohio’s seniors. As always, the best is yet to come.”