RPB Senior Needs Consultant Gets Right To Work

Royal Palm Beach’s newly contracted consultant to do a study of seniors’ needs in the village explained to the Recreation Advisory Board on Monday how the study will be undertaken.

Last Thursday, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council contracted with Phil Gonot of PMG Associates to do the study.

Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio noted that this is not the first senior needs assessment that has been done by the village. The first was done in 2008, which led to the relocation of many seniors programs to the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center.

“What PMG is going to be doing is surveys with various groups like this one, Young at Heart, some of the local citizen groups and homeowners’ associations, and staff,” Recchio said.

Gonot will gather information about what is currently offered to seniors and put all the information together to find out what is available and what is not.

“What direction do we need to go to fulfill some of those needs?” Recchio asked. “The last time we did this, one of the things was that the seniors wanted to have their own facility. Out of that, as you know, we moved to the Cultural Center, where seniors use the Cultural Center during the daytime hours and different clubs and organizations use it at night, so a lot of good things can come out of this.”

Gonot said one of the first things he wanted to do was get feedback from people in the community who understand the issues regarding seniors and services they need.

“We are going to meet with a lot of people,” he said, explaining that the meeting with the Recreation Advisory Board was one of his first stops since agreeing to the contract last week. “We’re just giving it to you tonight so you can get an idea what we’re going to do.”

Gonot said the process will include a survey to reveal available services and gaps that may exist.

“Does that mean Royal Palm Beach has to add that service? The answer is no,” he said. “Do we have to find a way that the citizens of Royal Palm Beach can avail themselves of services that already exist? That’s probably the best way to go, so we’ll look at those where it’s appropriate for Royal Palm Beach to do it and where it’s appropriate for someone else to do it.”

Part of the needs assessment will be a focus group session at the Cultural Center, he said, explaining that the last focus group had several hundred people attend.

“We got more input than we could handle, and that’s good,” Gonot said. “I’m glad that your citizens are not shy. They need to tell us, because how are we going to know if they don’t?”

A community survey will also be sent out to seniors.

The most important component is figuring out how to best manage delivery of available services, he said.

“We’re looking at what other people are doing and seeing if we can adapt it here locally,” Gonot said. “What we’re looking at is, ‘Hey, this is a great idea, but how do you implement it?’ How you make it work is the most important part of it.”

Gonot’s firm must have the final report ready for presentation to the council by June 30.

“That’s one of the reasons we hit the ground running,” Gonot said, adding that he will coordinate on a regular basis with village staff and the Senior Citizen Ad Hoc Advisory Board. “That’s the reason they were established, and that’s why we’re going to be working with them.”

Gonot asked board members to participate in a survey to list the services offered that they are aware of, or senior services they feel could or should be offered in the village.

It also asks whether they consider services they list adequate.

“If you could work on that and give us some feedback, that would be a good start,” he said.

Gonot said it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money to maintain a senior services network, although some of his clients, such as the City of Miramar in Broward County, have doubled their senior services budget after a study.

“They have a very large social service department,” he said, pointing out that Broward County also identifies geographic areas as senior services focal points. “The City of Miramar took over the southeast focal point for the county, so they took the program they already had and doubled it to provide these services.”

Gonot referred to the Cultural Center and the services provided there, and asked whether they meet the needs of seniors.

“There’s something there, but does it meet that need?” he asked. “One of the issues we talked about is are there smaller rooms.”

Another issue is health services, including mental health services, and how to provide them.

“We’re dealing with a group that is certainly under pressure every day from a number of different issues, and we need to look at that. Am I talking about Royal Palm Beach starting a hospital? No, not in the least bit, but there are people out there that provide the services,” Gonot said.