Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hot wheels: two meal-serving groups fall out

Posted on Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 3:23 PM

A schism has appeared in an unlikely place. Two groups that have long delivered Meals on Wheels to the elderly have fallen out. The split came in the wake of Valley Meals on Wheels becoming the new contractor to disburse state funding for senior nutrition programs at community centers and by delivery.

Valley Meals on Wheels at the first of the year supplanted the Regional Health District, which had held the contract for decades, as the agency that controls funding from Agency for Long Term Care in Eastern Washington. Players in the system call it Alt-Q ... the sounding out of its acronym, ALTCEW.

As the new boss, Valley Meals on Wheels had some changes they pitched to Spokane Meals on Wheels, only ... "We found we lacked some common ground," says Valley Meals on Wheels Director Pam Almeida.

No kidding, says Spokane Meals on Wheels Director Mollie Dalpae, citing proposed restrictions on her agency's authority to even call itself Meals on Wheels, and other examples of losing its independence. So late last week Mid-City Concerns announced it would no longer accept state funding and broke off negotiations with Valley Meals on Wheels.

"We've been doing this for 50 years," Dalpae says. The decision will cost some $240,000, Dalpae says, or 46 percent of Mid-City's senior nutrition budget

Mid-City Concerns says it will fill the budget hole through fund-raising events and donations. The organization hopes to raise $240,000 and continue to serve its 700 clients with 15,000 meals at its downtown community center and 78,000 meals delivered to the elderly in their homes.

Almeida  says the restrictions were necessary because her organization needs clear oversight in order to meet federal rules as the main contractor. But she also told The Inlander that she cheers Mid-City's plan to keep serving.

"I think that's wonderful. If they are able to continue, it means more people are fed," Almeida says. Then she adds, "Because we are responsible for the [entire] county, we are starting to serve within the city as well."

Dalpae says, "When they submitted their bid to ALTCEW, we were never in that bid. We were never mentioned. It leaves us to believe they never had any intention to subcontract with us."

She says she has already heard of instances of duplicate meal service inside the city limits

Almeida says she's hoping to avoid confusion.

Dalpae says, "If she picks up people we should be serving because of their address [inside the city], then she is creating her own confusion."

And, she says, she doubts it will be easily resolved:

"We received a text message from their attorney saying they don't want us to contact them."

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