JP Non-Profit Praises the Governor for His New Budget Proposals.
BOSTON, January 23, 2014 –Governor Deval Patrick drew praise from elder advocates when he released his FY15 budget on January 22nd, lifting the enhanced home care and home care line items by an additional $16.48 million—an increase of 11%. This represents the largest investment the Patrick Administration has made in the Home Care Program that serves the elderly and disabled.
“The Governor saved his best home care budget for last,” said Dale Mitchell, executive director of Ethos, the Jamaica Plain non-profit that serves southwest Boston.
The Administration projects that this funding will ensure that there are no waiting lists in the enhanced home care and home care programs in FY 15. In the Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP) 9110-1500, the funding increase will allow more than 5,000 elders to remain living at home. According to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA), the average ECOP client remains living at home one year and nine months longer than they would have without this program.
In the basic home care program, 9110-1630, the Governor’s investment will allow care managers to authorize a higher level of services per month to the 31,000 elders enrolled in the program each month. Because the monthly service package average has not changed since 2009, the home care package has lost purchasing power. Before yesterday’s budget numbers, the basic home care services line item in 2014 had fallen -8% below 2008 levels.
The Governor also created a new one-time line item with $1.2 million for workforce training. These funds are for the “core training competencies and certification programs for care managers, as well as personal care/home care aides, and for protective services investigators.”
“The home care program is supporting a much more complex and acute consumer population,” Mitchell said. “This fund will help ensure that elders get the best support available to remain living in their homes.”
The Governor’s budget also adds 10 new supportive housing sites to the existing 31 sites now operating across the state. This program allows approximately 1,500 seniors in public housing to receive home care services more efficiently in their building.
Three items on advocates’ lists were not directly addressed in House 2, and are expected to be on the short list of items to seek from the General Court, while maintaining the Governor’s funding improvements:
• A $6.1 million homemaker salary reserve.
• A $3.34 million increase in the care management/operations budget for the ASAPs.
• A $214,000 increase in funding for programs that support Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) such as Ethos’ AgeWell West Roxbury Program.
The Governor’s proposal to infuse new funding into home care comes on the heels of a recent demographic study from the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute which concludes that the population aged 65 and over in Massachusetts will increase by over half a million (548,699), expanding from 14% of the state’s total population in 2010 to 21% by 2030.
In response to the Governor’s budget for FY 15, Dale Mitchell said, “Given the demographic pressures we are already facing in the Commonwealth, the Governor’s investment is certainly timely. And it’s a smart investment on the Governor’s part: because keeping elders at home and out of nursing facilities saves money immediately.”
Mitchell said that elders and individuals with disabilities have the civil right to avoid unjustifiable segregation in nursing facilities. “This is an important legacy the Governor leaves for elders. We desperately need a public policy emphasis on community-based care.”
A coalition of elder advocates, including Mass Home Care, the Mass Senior Action Council, the Mass. Association of Older Americans, Mass Councils on Aging, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston wrote to the Administration earlier in January, urging a boost in funding for elder home care, which had fallen to below 2008 levels.
“I feel that the Governor heard our message,” Mitchell concluded, “and his decision will keep a lot of seniors living at home–where they want to be.”