Local seniors also affected by cuts

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Substance abuse providers and mental health specialists aren’t the only ones worrying about proposed cuts stemming from the House republicans’ budget plan for the fiscal year of 2010.

The state’s elderly, some say, are also facing a threat of shrinking services due to a shrink in funding.

The proposed budget plans a cut of $24 million to funding for aging community services and nutrition.

Services that keep the state’s aging out of nursing homes by providing necessary care to them in the comfort of their own home.

According to Christine Vanlandingham of the Area Agency on Aging, “the proposed cuts would mean that just in Berrien Cass and Van Buren counties:
– 250 individuals will not receive a hot meal;
– 150 seniors will stop receiving help with bathing, feeding, walking and other daily activities and/or homemaker services; and
– 30 vulnerable seniors will not have access to a Nurse/Social Worker Care Manager to coordinate their care.”

The cuts represent “a 60 percent reduction in the number of seniors who will receive services,” Vanlandingham said.

The Area Agency on Aging is part of a nationwide network of nonprofit agencies that work with providers in their respective states and communities so that aging citizens can still find everything from legal services to hot meals.

Officials within the agency act as advocates for the country’s seniors, works to identify needs and administrate funds for programs and facilitate in-home, community-based and access services.

“The Republican proposed cut to aging community services and nutrition represents a 60 percent cut to those services,” said Lynn Kellogg, CEO Region IV Area Agency on Aging. “These programs provide meals, legal assistance, and in-home care services and supports for vulnerable seniors. We know of no other department that is being asked to take that kind of hit. These are unquestionably difficult financial times, it is nevertheless unconscionable to balance the state budget on the backs of vulnerable seniors.”

The question is also raised on whether cuts to senior programs could inevitably cost the state money when more and more of the state’s aging citizens find themselves looking at nursing homes when they can no longer get services needed at their homes.

Such an increase could cost the state.

According to a June report by the Region IV Are Agency on Aging, the cost per day in southwest Michigan for Office of Services to the Aging (OSA) funded case coordination and support is $4.25, for care management the cost per day is $7.96 and for Medicaid funded nursing home, the cost in state dollars is $150.

Savings to medicaid annually, the report states is almost $8.4 million through the (OSA) programs.

The proposed budget is still being considered and a vote on the plan is not expected until sometime around October.