Serving Seniors: ULM, Northeast Delta HSA Commit To Improving Lives Of NELA’s Elderly
How to best address the needs and improve the lives of the senior population of Northeast Louisiana resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Louisiana Monroe and Northeast Delta Human Services Authority signed on Aug. 21, 2019.
Northeast Delta HSA is a division of the Office of Behavioral Health of the Louisiana Department of Health. Its Operation Golden Years initiative focuses on serving citizens ages 60 and above with information, support and services.
At the signing, Endowed Professor of Gerontology Dr. Burton Ashworth, who will work directly with the project, recalled meeting with Northeast Delta HSA Executive Director Dr. Monteic A. Sizer to discuss how to help the region’s senior citizens.
“My focus was on 65 years old and up,” said Ashworth, noting that in Ouachita Parish around 18 percent of the 154,000 population is 65 and above. “It’s an important point, but as he began to talk, I recognized, ‘he’s not leaving anyone out.’ … (I had to) start realizing that this is a bigger project than what I had initially thought that it would be.”
“We’re going to get the message out. This is going to increase the visibility of the services that are here, available in our area, and we can educate those individuals and let them know. ULM has resources, some of it free, that they can partake of and also that HSA can show that they have those things,” said Ashworth.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Alberto Ruiz thanked the ULM and Northeast Delta HSA leaders whose dedication led to the MOU.
“If it were not for people like you in this room, we could not move Northeast Louisiana forward. It is critical that we do that because we have got to invest in the communities in Northeast Louisiana. This MOU will create a partnership with Northeast Delta Human Services Authority and allow our faculty, and more importantly our students, the opportunity to work collaboratively with their clients,” Ruiz said.
Looking to the future, Ruiz added, “I would like for this university to have a rural health initiative.”
Sizer thanked Ruiz, College of Business and Social Sciences Dean Dr. Ron Berry, HSA Board President Michael Shipp, Director of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences Director Dr. Pamela Higgins-Saulsberry, Ashworth and Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Dr. John Sutherlin for their roles in the project.
“I believe where there are significant challenges, there’s also significant opportunities. So, I am excited about the future here in Northeast Louisiana,” Sizer said. “We have already committed to doing things with this university. We have some outstanding things going on. No one institution can solve these entrenched social problems alone. It will require all of us putting our souls together to make a difference.”
Northeast Delta HSA “ … directs and manages the operation of community-based programs to improve the quality of life of people with major mental illnesses, addictive disorders, and developmental disabilities.” For more information on Northeast Delta HSA, contact Will Sutton, (318) 362-4538, Will.Sutton@la.gov.