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NATIONAL SURVEY ON TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

You also asked us to determine (1) how AOA provides technical assistance to state units and (2) whether the technical assistance provided by AoA meets the needs of the state units. As part of this study, we specifically examined the issue of technical

assistance for targeting special populations.

To answer these

questions, we conducted a national survey of both providers and recipients of technical assistance. This includes: AOA, its 10 regional offices, 11 national resource centers, and 51 state units on aging.

Under title II of the older Americans Act, one of the functions of the Commissioner on Aging is to provide technical assistance to state units and area agencies on aging with respect to programs and services funded under the act. More specifically, the act requires the Commissioner to

"consult with national organizations representing
minority individuals to develop and disseminate training
packages and to provide technical assistance efforts
designed to assist State and area agencies in providing
services to older individuals with the greatest economic
and social needs."2

"Section 202 (a) (18) of the older Americans Act

To assist in the provision of technical assistance, AOA established 10 regional offices within the Department of Health and Human Services' regional office network, with each regional office responsible for providing technical assistance to the state agencies on aging within its region. Each regional office oversees from four to eight states or territories.

Provisions for technical assistance are also mandated by title IV of the older Americans Act, which states that the Commissioner may establish multidisciplinary centers of gerontology to provide technical assistance to the Commissioner,

policymakers, service providers, and the Congress. Eleven

multidisciplinary centers of gerontology, called national resource centers, were established, including the National Resource Center on Minority Aging Populations located at San Diego State University.

A recent survey of state units on aging, conducted by the National Resource Center on Minority Aging Populations at San Diego State University, found that the most commonly cited technical assistance requirement was for demographic and/or census information. This information is critically needed by state units and area agencies for several reasons. First, the older Americans Act requires state units and area agencies to identify older individuals who are eligible for assistance under the act, with particular attention to those with the greatest social and economic

needs, including low-income minorities. Without accurate demographic and census information, it is difficult for these agencies to fulfill this mandate. Second, demographic information facilitates state units and area agencies' ability to develop, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of specific targeting

strategies.

Third, state units on aging need accurate demographic

information because they distribute Older Americans Act funds to the area agencies through funding formulas that take into account the number and location of targeted elderly persons.

One of the reasons it has been difficult for state and area

agency officials to obtain demographic and census information is

that the U.S. Census Bureau has not generated such information on a

regular basis.

In the 1980's, however, the Census Bureau

developed two experimental programs that generated population

projections for states and counties, broken down by age, race, and

sex.

Through our discussions with officials at the Census Bureau,

we have learned that they are discussing enhancements to their population estimates program to generate projections for states and counties on a regular basis, which may include age, race, ethnicity, sex, and income.

Scope and Methods of GAO's Study

We mailed questionnaires to all 10 regional offices, the 11 national resource centers, and 51 state units on aging. (We included the District of Columbia, but excluded territories.) We

had an overall response rate of 99 percent. We also interviewed officials from AOA's central office, the National Association of State Units on Aging, and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

In presenting our results, we will discuss (1) the amount of technical assistance for targeting that regional offices and national resource centers provide to the state units on aging and (2) the extent of the state units' on aging unmet needs, if any, for technical assistance provided by the regional offices and

resource centers.

We specifically asked whether technical assistance is provided to help state units on aging (1) reach those elderly individuals with the greatest social and economic need, (2) target minority elderly, and (3) acquire demographic and census information about the aging population in their respective areas.

Findings on Technical Assistance

Amount of Technical Assistance Currently Provided

We asked officials at AOA's regional offices to indicate how much technical assistance they currently provide to state units on aging. Eight of the 10 regional office officials responded that

they provide a great or very great amount of technical assistance for (1) targeting those elderly individuals in greatest social and economic need and (2) targeting elderly minority individuals.3 In contrast, none of the 10 regional office officials indicated that they provide a great or very great amount of technical assistance to help state units acquire demographic information about the elderly populations in their respective geographic areas.

As was the case with regional offices, officials from the national resource centers indicated that they provide more technical assistance for some issue areas than others. This is not surprising since each resource center was established to provide technical assistance in a specific issue area. In fact, we did not expect most resource centers to provide a great deal of technical assistance for targeting issues. Nevertheless, most (6 of 11) resource center respondents indicated that they do provide a great or very great amount of technical assistance for (1) targeting elderly persons in the greatest social and economic need and (2) targeting elderly minorities. However, only two resource center officials noted that they provide a great or very great amount of technical assistance on demographics.

In sum, AOA's regional offices and national resource centers report that they do provide state units on aging with a great deal

Responses based on a 5-point scale: little or none, some, moderate, great, and very great.

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