Bethel New Life leader responds to Arlene Jones’ recent column

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Last week, AustinTalks published portions of a column Arlene Jones wrote for our partners at the Austin Weekly News. In her commentary, Jones criticized Bethel New Life for some changes the Westside social service agency has made. Bethel’s president and CEO, Steven McCullough, offered this response earlier today:

Ms. Arlene Jones wrote two opinion articles in July about Bethel New Life and its treatment of staff and the elders whom we serve. Among all the programs of Bethel that benefit the residents of the Westside, elders in our community are especially important. We touch the lives of close to eight hundred elders on a daily basis through independent living, assisted living, in-home care and day-care services. These are our mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and more. Providing safe, affordable, high-quality care is integral to our work. We want to see our elders age in the community in which they have lived their lives and raised their families.

To that end, we see some significant trends. First, the number of elders in need of critical services is growing at a rapid rate and the supply of services on the Westside does not meet the demand. Second, elders’ needs are growing more complex. We are experiencing higher numbers of elders who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and mental and physical disabilities. The final trend is that our elders come to us with increasingly limited resources. The state of Illinois is hindering our ability to provide services to low- income elders with their  slow reimbursement for the care we provide.

Based on these trends, we are always evaluating the quality of our work. In some cases, we have to increase our capabilities to address complex issues in care. Given the limited resources that we are faced with, we make decisions based on the needs of our elders first and foremost. All of this is done so that we have facilities, programming and care that the Westside can be proud. This is not a criticism of work that has been done in the past, but we can always improve, and we are committed to doing just that.

I invite Ms. Jones and anyone else who is interested to talk to me about the needs of the elders in our community and how we ensure that we are giving the best quality care without having to send our loved ones out of the community. If you are interested in working together and coming up with solutions, please contact me at 773-473-7870 ext. 142 or

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