April 8, 2009| Creation of a statewide network of geriatric health care and education centers recently brought UAMS’ Arkansas Aging Initiative and its director kudos from the state Legislature.
The AAI and director Claudia Beverly, Ph.D., R.N., were praised in legislative resolutions for improving the quality of life for older Arkansans and their families.
Lawmakers adopted Senate Resolution 13, sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett, and the identical House Resolution 1017, by Rep. Gregg Reep of Warren.
Beverly has led the establishment and operation of eight Regional Centers on Aging throughout the state.
Funding for the AAI and the Regional Centers on Aging comes largely from Arkansas’ share of the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry. All of the state’s tobacco funds were dedicated to health care by a popular vote in 2000, and the Arkansas Legislature designated a portion to AAI starting in 2001. AAI has since used the $1.5 million to $2 million a year to leverage an additional $6 million in gifts, grants, contracts and donated time and space.
Beverly, also director of the Arkansas John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing at UAMS, said she was grateful for the honor.
“We’re extremely proud of the fact that Arkansas is now a leader in the care of it elderly, particularly in rural areas,” Beverly said. “But the Legislature and the people of Arkansas really deserve credit for dedicating the tobacco money to this cause. I want to be sure that their investment brings all the returns it can in the health and well-being of the older adults of our state.”
Thanks to the AAI, 90 percent of elderly Arkansans and their caregivers are no more than about an hour’s drive from quality geriatric health care. The regional centers are in Springdale, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Hot Springs, Texarkana, El Dorado, Pine Bluff and West Memphis.
The AAI is a program of the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
The resolutions state: “The 87th General Assembly of the State of Arkansas recognizes and commends Dr. Claudia Beverly and the Arkansas Aging Initiative leadership team for their efforts in designing, implementing, and operating the comprehensive program of specialized geriatric health services for our senior citizens and their families.”
It concludes that the General Assembly “commends the participating hospital administrators, geriatricians, nurses and other members of the health professional teams working in these rural areas for their commitment and devotion to improving the quality of life for older Arkansans and their families.”