The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Seniors weigh in at forum


May 26, 2019

Kevin Wilson

About 50 area senior citizens attended a public hearing on various senior concerns Wednesday at Clovis' Friendship Senior Center.

CLOVIS - About 50 seniors showed up to a forum Wednesday at the Friendship Senior Center, with a hearing slated to hear concerns and get ideas for the next few years of city services to older adults.

Speakers ranged from local to federal, with reminders of current services and upcoming events.

The hearing, scheduled for two hours at the Friendship Center, ended after about 90 minutes after crowd members had run through their questions.

The largest concern among those who spoke usually dealt with cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. Ben Salazar, a field representative for Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said members of Congress weren't likely to discuss Medicare or Medicaid cuts with the 2020 elections coming up, and said any communications from senior citizens would be heard because the group is the most consistent voting bloc in the country.

Regarding Medicare and Medicaid, Salazar said it was a small part of the budget in comparison to expense like national defense.

"I believe in a strong defense," Salazar said, "but at some point if you have paid into Medicaid or Medicare it's not an entitlement. You've earned it."

A few raised concerns about the local centers. Billy Gonzales of Clovis asked why fundraising done by the Friendship Center years ago wasn't being used for items like trips to the Senior Olympics in Albuquerque. Senior Services Director Barbara Riggan said when the Friendship Center became a city-owned building, it put conditions on that money. In order to avoid violations of the state antidonation clause, the money had to be expended on things for the center itself, and Riggan said the money was used to fulfill many visitor requests.

State representative Martin Zamora attended the hearing, and told the seniors in attendance he was always willing to listen to their concerns. He noted he wasn't allowed in the Friendship Center to campaign. Riggan noted that was because the building was city-owned, but he was welcome back any time he wanted now that he is an elected state representative.

In a point that was echoed throughout the meeting, Salazar reminded residents to be ready for the 2020 census - whether they want one of the temporary jobs the process will create or they're just asked to fill out the form.

"For every person who doesn't fill out the form and isn't counted," Salazar said, "the county and our area lose $3,000."

Other speakers at the hearing included:

• Curry County Health Council Coordinator Susan Alman, who reminded the crowd of a community health event scheduled for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the county administrative complex.

"You'll be able to know everything from babies to hospice," Alman said of the event.

• United Way of Eastern New Mexico Executive Director Erinn Burch, who reminded seniors of the United Way's 2-1-1 service line. The number goes to the United Way office, where staff will direct callers to whatever service they need.

• Melinda Coslett, coordinator for the Curry County 50-Plus Olympics. She noted that 23 people, and three teams, have qualifed for the 2019 National Senior Games set for June 14-25 in Albuquerque.


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