While working locally on Friday, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., also got to see some longtime friends.

He visited the Northwood Retirement Community in Jasper to talk to facility leaders about what’s currently happening in Congress that affects the nursing home system.

“This is a hot topic in [Washington] D.C., and I’m weighing in a lot on that,” he said.

Before the sit-down meeting, Braun walked through the halls of the facility’s main section before heading over to the assisted-living building.

As he walked, he stopped to greet a few residents in the halls and in sitting areas, including Betty Hoffman, Jack Astrike and Lucille Rudolph. He and Astrike chatted for a few minutes about the old neighborhood they lived in, and about Braun’s family.

Braun, who attended Rudolph’s 100th birthday party a few weeks ago, said he has known her for years. “When we moved back in 1978, in lower Boone Township,” he said, “we were her neighbors.”

After the visits, Braun met with Diane Jones and Jennifer Wilson of Northwood; Brenda Richardson, a registered dietitian who works with Northwood; Tom Syverson, director of government and external affairs for the Good Samaritan Society; and Brenda Reetz, CEO of Greene County General Hospital and chairperson of the Region 8 Workforce Board. They discussed several matters and then the senator was given a packet of information about the facility and needed changes in federal legislation.

Richardson asked Braun to support a bill that would allow people who have Medicare to get obesity treatment from qualified personnel other than a physician.

“They can’t go to a registered dietitian or nutritionist, they can’t go to others to get that treatment. That’s part of Medicare law,” Richardson explained. “And it would cost less money if they could.”

Currently, Medicare will pay for the service only if people get treatment only from a doctor.

“This law addresses that, and allows someone to see a dietitian?” Braun asked. When Richardson said yes, Braun gave his support, stating, “I can tell you, I’ll be for that.”

The bill has been introduced several times before, but died in Congress each time, Richardson said.

“Yeah, some stuff does,” Braun said, “You just run out of time. Maybe something like this would have time to hit the legislative calendar.”

Richardson also asked for Braun’s support on a bill that would allow qualified non-physician practitioners, like dietitians, who are working with a physician or practitioner to provide patients with diabetes self-management training. It also allows that service and medical nutrition therapy services to be giving on the same day, instead of at different appointments. Doing this would help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for the patient, she said.

Jones and Wilson talked about the need to have more people pursue dietary and nursing assistant degrees.

“We are always looking for CNAs (certified nursing assistants),” said Jones, who is administrator of Northwood. “The dietary staff is also a struggle.”

With that, Jones said she is thankful that Vincennes University Jasper Campus has robust nursing and medical assistant programs.

Wilson added that Northwood recently received a $24,000 workforce grant to provide funding to people to purse training to become a CNA. And she hopes to get more people in the Hispanic community interested in pursuing certifications and wanting to come work in the facility.

“We’re all struggling,” Richardson said. “With unemployment the way it is, you are competing with so many other places, like the factories.”

Braun said businesses and companies working directly with the schools to reach students early is a must nowadays.

“In some cases, you just need a better curriculum where you learn life skills,” he said. “I’m glad to see high schools bringing back classes like shop, metal, wood, industrial arts. We have 80,000 jobs open in the state that don’t need four-year degrees,” he said.

Just prior to visiting Northwood, Braun was at a meeting at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center to discuss health care with representatives from hospitals across southern Indiana. He said he tries to meet with people in Indiana whenever he is on legislative break from Congress or when he is home on the weekends.

“When you’re in [Washington] D.C., it’s kind of dismal,” Braun said. “Here, you get to listen to people, hear what’s on their minds. They keep me informed, which is so great.”