Elders Travel to State House Tuesday Seeking Funds For Equal Choice Law
SOUTHWEST BOSTON, MA (February 22, 2008) –Several hundred elderly and disabled people are traveling to the State House Tuesday, February 26th at 11:00a.m. to request a balancing act or more precisely — a rebalancing act.
Seniors want state lawmakers to shift existing funding from institutions into the community. They say Massachusetts is still overly-reliant on nursing home care, and needs to “rebalance” the more than $2.5 billion that is spent on long-term care services.
“We invest 66% of our MassHealth long term care dollars in nursing homes,” explained Ethos Executive Director Dale Mitchell. “Yet our official state policy is “Community First.” It’s time to rearrange our budget to reflect what seniors want — care at home. Let the money follow the person back home.”
Ethos and other groups will converge on the State House to lobby lawmakers as they prepare the FY2009 budget. Our top priorities are as follows:
1. Home Care Services (9110-1500) – $58.51 million for providing in-home care to elders who are eligible for a nursing home but can still live at home. Home Care costs only one-third of what a nursing home bed would cost. This appropriation level will keep 4,876 elders per month out of institutions — a savings of at least $234 million.
2. Protective Services Program (9110-1636) – $21.58 million for investigating and resolving reports of elder abuse and self-neglect. Every day another 42 reports of elder abuse are filed in Massachusetts. However, some reports are not fully investigated because of a $3 million deficit in this program. This program pays for guardians, Money Management volunteers, and for protective services investigators. This request will cover 3,554 elders per month.
3. Geriatric Mental Health (9110-1640) – $925,000 for home mental health services for elders — the “forgotten generation.” This program recognizes mental health issues – like depression or thoughts of suicide –as a disability as valid as any physical impairment. This request will cover services for about 328 elders for a year.
“We have one of the highest rates of institutionalization of the elderly in the nation,” Mitchell said. “For every one person in a nursing home, we can pay for two people at home. We want lawmakers to make “the equal choice law” real by making our tax dollars work smarter.” According to Mitchell, the Equal Choice law, passed in August of 2006, guarantees seniors the choice to live in the ‘least restrictive setting.’ “However, without funding,” Mitchell said, “Equal Choice becomes No Choice at all.”