Minimal cuts made to state long-term care; local providers relieved

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: April 13, 2012, 10:00 PM

 

State-funded long-term care emerged nearly unscathed in the supplemental operating budget passed Wednesday and even received a modest increase in money for a support program for family caregivers and training for workers in long-term care.

Long-term care providers, who had been bracing for deep cuts, were gleeful about the news.

“It’s been a huge worry,” said David Kelly, executive director of the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities. “I feel like what we do for our seniors is the best use of public dollars I know of, and I am so pleased these dollars have been maintained so the services we offer don’t have to be cut back.”

The exception to the good news was a 2 percent rate cut for assisted living centers.

“It’s a pretty small cut, and assisted living centers haven’t been cut before,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, chair of the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee. “Everybody else — nursing homes, adult family homes, in-home care — has been cut before. Two percent is a small cut they can handle.”

The Legislature gave small increases in money to other programs.

The Family Caregiver Support program received an additional $1.7 million. The program provides training, counseling and respite care for unpaid caregivers.

About $9.2 million was added to pay for additional training for workers in long-term care, required this year for the first time by Initiative 1163.

“It’s miraculous that all the things we worried about did not come to fruition,” said Eric Erickson, executive director of Vancouver’s CDM Services home care agency. “It’s a great outcome.”

One of the cuts lawmakers had mulled was eliminating adult day care, a service provided by CDM. The program provides therapy and activities to people with disabilities and gives unpaid caregivers a break from their duties.

Cuts were averted due to improvements in the economy and state revenue, past spending reductions that shrank the state’s case load, an accounting maneuver in which the state will temporarily claim control of local sales taxes before they are redistributed to jurisdictions at their usual time and the elimination of a tax deduction for some large banks.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.