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Casinos not the only game on Beacon Hill

By March 18, 2008No Comments

Elder Caucus Lobbies for Home Care Funds

STATE HOUSE—Casinos aren’t the only game on Beacon Hill this week. Sixty-nine members of the General Court including local State Representative Willie Mae Allen (D-Sixth Suffolk) signed a “Dear Colleague” letter to get the leadership to place a bigger bet on elderly home care as a way to save the state money. The request comes at a time when 66% of all MassHealth long-term care dollars go to nursing homes, and the Commonwealth ranks 2nd in the nation for percentage of elders in institutions.

“We’re playing a losing numbers game,” said Ethos Executive Director Dale Mitchell. “We can care for two people at home for every one we place in an institution. That’s a winning hand.”

In a “Dear Colleague” letter dated March 13th, circulated by Representative Barbara L’Italien (D-Eighteenth Essex) and Representative Richard Ross (R- Ninth Norfolk), the lawmakers urged the House and Senate Ways & Means Committees to increase funding for six items affecting the elderly. Among the items sought:

  • $46 million for Governor Patrick’s “Community First” program to keep elders and individuals with disabilities living in the community.
  • $58 million for an “enhanced home care” program that keeps nearly 4,700 elders out of nursing homes.
  • $2 million to raise the wages of homemakers
  • $21.5 million to combat elder abuse
  • $925,000 for a geriatric mental health counseling program for seniors
  • $9.1 million for local Councils on Aging.

“It’s a safe bet that elderss want to be cared for at home,” Mitchell added. “Yet most of our tax dollars go to nursing homes. It’s time to put our money where our elders are—at home.”

Mitchell said that Massachusetts ranks second only to Connecticut in the percentage of seniors age 65 and over who are in nursing homes. “We’ve become overly-reliant on institutions,” he said. “We’re playing with a deck stacked towards institutions. It’s time to up the ante by putting more money in community care first.”