The U.S. leads the pack in the percentage of older adults who have trouble paying their medical bills.
July 01--Don Bruland, director of Senior and Disability Services at Rogue Valley Council of Governments, has retired after a 37-year tenure.
Bruland serves on the Governor's Home Care Commission, Long-Term Care Insurance Advisory Council and AARP of Oregon Executive Council.
He has been a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, and the Jackson County Community Service Consortium selected him as the recipient of the Jean Loony Community Service Award for 2012.
His colleagues say Bruland's life's work has been to promote the dignity, quality of life and self-determination of seniors and people with disabilities.
Berta Varble, operations manager of RVCOG's Seniors and Disability Services, who has worked with Bruland for more than 25 years, said Bruland's efforts have benefitted not only seniors and people with disabilities, but also their caregivers, loved ones and the community as a whole.
"Don is a modest man," Varble said. "But the programs he has administered and championed (through RVCOG) have been literally life-changing for thousands of individuals in our community."
Bruland landed at Oregon State University from California in 1973 with a freshly minted master's degree in social work and immediately started blazing a trail toward programs benefitting seniors. Two years later he was hired by RVCOG.
Bruland began as a department of one, himself. Over the decades, his work grew into an organization that includes 149 staff, nearly 400 volunteers and directs programs in Jackson and Josephine Counties.
Bruland's legacy includes participation in the creation and expansion of cutting-edge programs such as Oregon Project Independence and Living Well, which enable people to live independently.
Bruland said Oregon has led the nation in creating programs like OPI that protect personal freedom while providing quality care at less cost to the state.
"Most of us want to live in our own home as long as possible," Bruland said. "That choice is important."
Democrat Rep. Peter Buckley, co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee, praised Bruland's ability to clearly show legislators the faces of those who benefit from the programs, what the programs could look like and how they could work.
He was a "tremendous advocate," Buckley said. "He has made people's lives better. He has made the state better. It's a great legacy."
Michael Cavallaro, executive director of RVCOG and Bruland's boss, says Bruland's accomplishments have extended well beyond the Rogue Valley, with far-reaching impact on state and national policies and programs.
"His vision has inspired the present form of long-term care in Oregon and across the nation," Cavallaro said.
Dave Toller, former Josephine County commissioner, has been hired to fill Bruland's position. Toller has 16 years of experience working in social services, mainly in youth programs, he said.
"Now I'll be looking at the other end of the spectrum," Toller said, adding he and Bruland have worked together for the past month or so.
"Don is an expert in the Rogue Valley and the whole state of Oregon," he said. "I'm replacing some really big shoes here."
Bruland plans to continue advocating for seniors and the disabled when he's not busy being a "bi-coastal grandparent" and a Smart Reader at local schools.
"I will still be involved in our community," Bruland said. "I will continue my advocacy work with the individuals and causes that I believe in. That's who I am. That's not just my job."
(c)2012 the Mail Tribune (Medford, Ore.)
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