New Kanawha Valley Senior Services director eyes growth
09/25/2013 - The Charleston Daily Mail. By Matt Murphy.
CHARLESTON - Carrying with her over 30 years of experience working with older adults, Paulette Justice hopes to improve how Kanawha Valley Senior Services meets the needs of local seniors as the organization's new executive director.
Justice joined the agency about six weeks ago after its board of directors spent several months searching for a candidate. So far, she's been getting to know the staff and learning the agency's operations.
"I don't like to sit behind a desk," she said. "I'm at the point where I want to get out and participate."
Kanawha Valley Senior Services oversees a multitude of services for seniors, from respite and in-home care to transportation, activities, counseling and meals. The organization also operates a senior center on the West Side - the Tiskelwah Center.
"I think the staff here are very good with their interactive services," she said. "A lot of the staff also has aging family members."
Justice is joining Kanawha Valley Senior Services at a significant time in senior service agencies around the country.
In addition to the task of informing the public about how the Affordable Care Act affects health care for older adults, major demographic and social changes are taking place at senior agencies as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age.
As a group, the baby boomers tend to be "more active" in older age than previous generations, Justice said. On top of that, other older adults are staying in the workforce longer than ever before, with some people working into their 70s and 80s.
Thus, senior services agencies will need to start designing programs to cater to those changing demographics.
"We'll probably have to do some reinventing of our services," she said.
Justice said she would like to see the agency better promote its current services as well. The Tiskelwah Center, she said, is a very safe and clean place for older adults to go, but awareness of the facility isn't as high as she would like it to be.
"I think people see the building down there and they don't know what we have there," she said.
There are also programs in which Justice thinks Kanawha Valley Senior Services is already excelling, like respite care, which provides relief and assistance for caregivers of older adults.
"I think that's a great service we offer folks," she said.
Justice isn't new to the Kanawha Valley. She grew up near Gauley Bridge and graduated from Gauley Bridge High School. Her father was a pharmacist in Montgomery, and Justice, her brother and her sister all worked at the pharmacy at some point in their lives.
"We learned our work ethic there," she said.
Justice went on to attend West Virginia University for her undergraduate and graduate education, graduating in 1980. She was part of the fifth generation of her family to attend WVU.
Afterward, Justice worked for a behavioral health center in Charleston for 21 years before working at Riverside Nursing Home, Highland Hospital and Thomas Memorial Hospital. Most recently, she worked at APS Healthcare, where she helped manage Medicaid waivers for the aged and disabled.
Justice's father died in 1994, but her mother is still living. Justice said having a personal connection to an older adult helps her in her position.
"What I see they need is people taking care of them," she said of older adults. "If people don't have family, they can come to us."
Justice is the third director of Kanawha Valley Senior Services in as many years. In 2011, the senior services board of directors fired Scott McClanahan. His replacement, Janie Hamilton, was fired in March. In both cases, the board declined to give a specific reason for the firing.
Justice said she heard about the Kanawha Valley Senior Services position from a friend.
"I had not really been looking for job change, but had always wanted to lead an organization," she said. "I'm always up for a challenge."
But Justice said she was looking to move the agency forward. She said she was enjoying her new coworkers and sees a bright future for the organization.
"I've been working since 1980," she said. "I've never not been energized to come to work. It's nice to get people who are excited about what they do."