Westchester Library System Helps Seniors Save a Buck with New Senior Benefits Information Centers

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Today’s struggling economy has left many older adults facing financial hardship and filled with uncertainty when it comes to their healthcare. For those on a fixed income, saving money wherever possible has become increasingly important. The Westchester Library System’s (WLS) new Senior Benefits Information Centers (SBICs), located at libraries in Mount Kisco, Shrub Oak, Tarrytown, and Yonkers, offers older adults benefits counseling covering a broad range of topics including Medicare health and prescription plans, food stamps, HEAP, EPIC, weatherization, minor home repair, and tax relief programs.

Today’s struggling economy has left many older adults facing financial hardship and filled with uncertainty when it comes to their healthcare. For those on a fixed income, saving money wherever possible has become increasingly important. The Westchester Library System’s (WLS) new Senior Benefits Information Centers (SBICs), located at libraries in Mount Kisco, Shrub Oak, Tarrytown, and Yonkers, offers older adults benefits counseling covering a broad range of topics including Medicare health and prescription plans, food stamps, HEAP, EPIC, weatherization, minor home repair, and tax relief programs.

WLS has partnered with the Medicare Rights Center and Westchester County’s Department of Senior Programs and Services to make the free one-on-one counseling available at four Westchester locations. SBICs are now open at the John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak (Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10am to 1pm) and the Grinton I. Will Library in Yonkers (Mondays and Tuesdays from 10am to 1pm; Thursdays from 11am to 1pm). Grand openings are scheduled for The Warner Library in Tarrytown on April 21, 2010 and Mount Kisco Public Library on May 12, 2010. Counseling at both locations will be available on Wednesdays from 10am to 1pm.

“In this economy, everyone needs to save a buck – especially seniors,” said Robin Osborne, Director of WLS’s Office of Community Connections. “WLS’s SBICs help Westchester’s older adults hone in on the specific programs that qualify for – whether it’s related to healthcare, home care, or tax relief. Seniors receive one-on-one attention to have their questions answered and leave armed with the information they need to save.”

SBIC’s counselors address each visitor’s specific needs and guide them through a variety of online resources to identify their individual eligibility. All locations are equipped with a dedicated phone line to answer questions as well as computers and printers that enable seniors to leave with the appropriate information and referrals. In an effort to make SBIC services available to an even greater number of seniors, WLS is also exploring the possibility of expanding the program to other libraries in Westchester County.

Ann Acken, a senior citizen from Somers, recently visited the SBIC at the John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak with questions about her Medicare coverage. "My experience was very enlightening. The volunteer counselor, Marna, was very patient and answered all of my questions."

Volunteer SBIC counselors are trained by the Medicare Rights Center and include retired professionals such as nurses, teachers, social workers. WLS and the Medicare Rights Center are seeking additional volunteers, particularly in the Northern Westchester area. Westchester residents who are interested should be at least 50 years old with excellent public speaking and interpersonal skills, be computer literate, and able to commit to a minimum of 12 hours per month. Some knowledge of the health care system and fluency in Spanish is a plus.

“The SBIC counseling program is especially important this year because many people are not aware of their eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs and savings available through other public benefits, such as Food Stamps,” said Lois Steinberg, Westchester Program Director for the Medicare Rights Center. “Our trained counselors can help them find the benefits they are eligible for and show them how to apply.”

The initial training for new SBIC recruits takes place over five half-days, with additional training provided as needed. Volunteers are trained on the different benefit programs, including the use of http://www.benefitcheckup.org. For more information on volunteering, please contact Robin Osborne, Director of WLS’s Office of Community Connections, at (914) 231-3237.

The Westchester Library System is located at 540 White Plains Road, Suite 200, Tarrytown, NY 10591. For a complete list of programs and events throughout the Westchester Library System, visit the WLS website at http://www.westchesterlibraries.org.

About the Westchester Library System
The Westchester Library System (WLS) includes 38 member public libraries located throughout the County and is one of New York State's 23 public library systems. WLS and its member libraries have a total collection of 5.4 million items, including 3.7 million books, as well as audio recordings, videocassettes, DVDs, print serials, and other materials. The mission of the Westchester Library System is to ensure that all residents have seamless access to excellent library service throughout Westchester County. The Westchester Library System serves as a center of innovation for the Westchester County library community. WLS provides model programs, affordable and easy-to-use information technology, and support services that enable libraries to continuously improve service to their communities. For more information, please visit http://www.westchesterlibraries.org.

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