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A woman assists an older man walking with a cane

(Photo: iStock)

Senior Services of Central Illinois Addresses Social Determinants of Health

For Bill Hutchinson, 67, making ends meet became a challenge when he moved alone into an apartment in the Springfield area. When his neighbor heard about Hutchinson’s hardship, he suggested contacting Senior Services of Central Illinois (SSCI).

SSCI promotes independent living for seniors in the Springfield, Illinois Area. SSCI supports basic needs, encourages healthy living and socialization, all through one agency.

“I’ve worked hard my entire life,” said Hutchinson who is now unable to work due to a physical disability. “I just wasn’t very well set-up financially for retirement. I never had a job that offered any type of pension or retirement plan or paid enough to allow me to save or invest money.”

Like many seniors in the United States, Hutchinson's Social Security check accounts for almost all of his income. The Social Security Administration reports that half of people 65 and over rely on their social security check for at least half of their income, and a quarter of retired Americans rely on it for 90% or more of their income.

"Our caseworkers are the best advocates a senior can have."

SSCI was one of 175 organizations to receive a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois’ (BCBSIL) COVID-19 Community Collaboration Fund. The grants support community-based organizations focusing on access to care, hunger, shelter and behavioral health, and COVID-19 health education and vaccine access.

Senior Services of Central Illinois referred Hutchinson to the Elder Assistance Services (EAS) program at their location. EAS set up an in-home visit to assess Hutchinson’s needs, and based on his income level, the EAS staff were able to get Hutchinson signed up for utility assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), medical benefits through Medicaid, and a free bus pass through the Illinois Department on Aging's Benefit Access program. The EAS staff’s assistance allowed Hutchinson to stretch his monthly income.

“Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in this country, are just not financially prepared to retire,” said Justin Yuroff, director of development at SSCI. “Social service agencies like ours can step in and provide relief with the resources we have and partnerships with other local agencies. Our caseworkers are the best advocates a senior can have, and they are also well-connected with other community agencies who offer services to seniors.”

Hutchinson also qualified for Daily Bread, a home-delivered meals program serving seniors across Sangamon and Menard counties. He now receives five nutritious meals delivered to his door every week. These meals and a monthly supply of food provided by SSCI's food pantry have lowered Hutchinson's monthly food costs.

“The grant awarded by Blue Cross helped cover operational expenses to keep our doors open during the pandemic,” said Yuroff. “Our organization is funded primarily through grants and billable services, which were way down during the COVID-19 pandemic because our caseworkers were not seeing many clients face-to-face. This grant paid for our IT services, insurance, copier lease, and administrative costs. Without this grant, we would have had to dip into our very limited reserve funding.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association