LeadingAge Florida Director Steve Bahmer

The Florida Health Care Association, LeadingAge Florida and AARP have formed the Coalition for Silver Solutions with state legislators in an effort to develop short- and long-term strategies to meet the needs of Florida’s aging population across the continuum of care and services, the groups announced last week.

“We believe it’s time for a new path forward, one with close collaboration between providers, policymakers, regulators and seniors to help ensure that providers can deliver the quality of care that Florida’s older adults need and deserve,” said Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, the state partner of the national LeadingAge organization.

The three advocacy groups working together “is a golden opportunity. It is a big deal,” Florida Sen. Ben Albritton, a Republican, said at the Wednesday press conference where the coalition was announced. Twenty-five percent of Florida’s population is expected to be aged 65 or more years by 2030, the groups said.

Among the coalition’s 2019 priorities, according to the organizations, are advocating for sufficient funding for both home- and community-based care and long-term care and seeking to retain $138 million in Medicaid funding authorized by the state legislature in 2018.

“Long-term care providers are struggling to meet the needs of caring for a larger, more complex senior population. We are in the midst of a severe and deepening workforce shortage, and the projected increase in older adults who will need care in the coming years increases the urgency of the need for solutions,” Bahmer said. “In the short term, the solution is to provide adequate funding for long-term care and home- and community-based service providers. In its simplest form, funding supports staffing, and staffing drives quality. Without adequate funding, hiring and retaining the specialized staff necessary to ensure quality care will continue to be a significant challenge.”

The groups also plan to develop long-term strategies to meet the increasing challenges associated with the state’s large and growing senior population.

“In the long term, we believe a new approach to planning for and delivering care to Florida’s seniors is needed,” Bahmer said. “Fundamental change and continued progress toward high-quality services and supports for seniors will require all of us to work together to find common ground and to advocate on behalf of the people who need that care.”

Coalition members plan to work together throughout the current legislative session, with efforts culminating in a “Silver Summit” later this year, ahead of the 2020 session.

Organizers plan to expand the effort to include additional groups, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

“We are addressing challenges and solutions for the full continuum of care, so more organizations will be invited to be a part of it,” she said.

Watch the press conference here.