Two recent developments bode well for nursing quality in Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College opened in September, allowing high school students to earn college credit toward a nursing degree. Donna Policastro, an AARP state executive council member, helped establish the charter school, which is the first of its kind in the nation.
In October, the Center to Champion Nursing in America selected a Rhode Island coalition as one of 35 nationwide working to expand access to health care, with nurses playing a vital role. The effort is sponsored by AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Visit championnursing.org to learn more.
Rhode Islanders behind on utility payments may have an easier time keeping the heat on this winter, thanks to a new state law.
Backed by AARP, the law is expected to generate $7.5 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by adding an annual surcharge of $20 per household to combined gas and electric bills.
"With fewer federal dollars coming to the state this year, this law will make it easier to heat and light the homes of those who most need help," said Maggi Rogers of the George Wiley Center, an organization dedicated to changing public policies to keep people out of poverty.
Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income. To find out if you qualify, go to energy.ri.gov/lowincome/liheap.php.
As lawmakers wrangle with pension reform, AARP Rhode Island is using its website to keep members informed, and using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to ensure their voices are heard.
A special session of the General Assembly begins this month, specifically to deal with the state's growing unfunded pension obligations. Thousands of state and municipal retirees and retired public schoolteachers are at risk of having benefits cut.
About 28.9 million Americans age 55 and older participated in social networking as of July 2011, up from 16 million in 2009, according to the digital measurement company comScore. Go to www.pensionalertri.org to learn more about the state's public pension crisis. For pointers on how to use Facebook and Twitter to help with advocacy, go to aarp.org/ri.
AARP is working with Serve Rhode Island to engage 3,000 volunteers age 55-plus in public service projects run by more than 100 nonprofit organizations over the next three years. Volunteer opportunities abound in the state, with groups as diverse as the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership and Volunteer Services for Animals. Volunteers also are needed for the AARP Driver Safety and the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide programs.
"Although the satisfaction that goes with lending a hand often is its own reward, many people find they gain new and valuable employable skills when they volunteer," says AARP state director Kathleen Connell.
AARP Rhode Island also aims to identify funding sources for outreach and transportation to encourage more Hispanics and other minorities to volunteer. To learn more, go to aarp.org/ri.