As if 1,100 elders on the Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP) wait list were not bad enough, Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) were officially notified that a second wait list will be imposed beginning today.
Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) and 26 other ASAPs (non-profit agencies designated by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Commonwealth of Massachusetts to coordinate and provide the home care programs for elders) have been notified by the state that another home care wait list for basic services will begin March 1st. The cutback had been anticipated for some time.
This home care basic wait list comes on top of an existing wait list of 1,100 elders who need a higher level of support through the ECOP, which is a program for elders who are eligible for nursing home care, but can be helped to live at home. The new wait list is also on the heels of the FY13 budget proposed by Governor Deval Patrick which will cut 242,000 meals for elders.
According to an instruction released today by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, elders with limited formal/informal supports and a critical unmet need of grocery shopping, along with elders who have a critical unmet need of meal preparation will not get into the home care program.
For OCES, the Brockton-based regional elder services agency serving seniors their families and caregivers throughout greater Brockton and Plymouth county, this latest cutback means an estimated 60 more elders will not receive services this year.
According to Diana DiGiorgi, OCES’ executive director, “OCES already has 47 elders on its ECOP wait list. In addition, the loss of funding in the meals program would mean that 12,000 fewer meals are delivered across our 23 communities next year.”
In January, the state estimated that it would cost $3.8 million additional in FY2012 to end the ECOP wait list. The basic home care program is currently $1.4 million in deficiency. By June of 2012, it is estimated that almost 1,200 elders will be on the basic home care wait list. That means 2,500 seniors could be waiting for home care and ECOP services by the close of this fiscal year.
Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care, said “Community based services like home care are saving state and federal taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Compared to 2001, the state has saved 3.6 million Medicaid-funded patient days in nursing homes, as more elders are diverted home instead.”
The Commonwealth has avoided an estimated $592 million this year through lowered institutional utilization. “This is the ‘home care dividend’ that should be invested back in community care,” Norman said.
There is no waiting list for nursing facility care in Massachusetts; in fact there is a 13% vacancy rate in nursing facilities. Adjusted for inflation, the state home care program has lost $23 million in funding since 2009, according to the Mass Budget & Policy Center.
“If we are squeezing down the home care program today, what are we going to say to the baby boomers when they need care in the future?” Norman asked. Today in Massachusetts, one in four households (653,103 households) has someone over the age of 65. 19% of the state’s population is over 60—and seniors are the fastest growing age group over the next twenty years.
“The Administration likes to say we are a ‘Community First’ state,” Norman concluded. “With these cuts, it looks like a ‘Wait First’ state.”
Incorporated in 1974, Old Colony Elder Services is a private, non-profit corporation designated as one of 27 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. OCES offers a number of programs to serve seniors, individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers such as Family Caregiver Support; Adult Family Care; Supportive Housing; Nutrition; Money Management; Protective Services and Home Care.
OCES serves elders, their families and caregivers in 23 towns in Southeastern Massachusetts: Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Lakeville, Marshfield, Middleboro, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rockland, Stoughton, Wareham, West Bridgewater and Whitman.
The organization’s mission is to provide services that support the dignity and independence of elders by helping them maximize their quality of life; live safely and in good health; and, prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization. For more information call (508) 584-1561 or visit the website at www.oldcolonyelderservices.org.