Federal Advocacy Needed Now More Than Ever
You may recall last month’s article about the new Long-Term Care Coalition in Washington state. The coalition’s work is intense and ongoing. Why? Because thousands of vulnerable Washingtonians are at risk of losing services they depend on for daily living.
We are working to prevent cuts to vital services. The worst-case scenario at this time—based on modeling by the DSHS Aging and Long-Term Support Administration—is a $220 million cut in long-term services and supports statewide. That would result in cutting nearly one in three people who currently depend on services that Aging and Disability Services (ADS) and other Area Agencies on Aging provide—services on which clients depend for daily living.
Imagine the effect of these cuts, not only on clients but their families! Where would you turn if you or your loved one could no longer receive in-home support? Where would you turn if you or a loved one with developmental, intellectual, or other disability that qualified for Medicaid health care services was suddenly cut off? How would you ensure their health and safety?
The vast majority of those who receive case management services and supports through ADS are very low-income. A majority are people of color. And all have been determined to require assistance with activities of daily living to survive.
I think the examples of how ADS case managers, nurse consultants, caregiver support specialists, and social service aides support clients in “Stories From the Front Lines of Aging and Disability Services” help us understand how complex and challenging long-term care can be for professionals, let alone family members. In addition to authorizing in-home services, ADS staff and contractors make connections and coordinate services in a way that family members and other service providers often are not capable of handling. Again, what would you do if you or your loved one was cut off from these services?
Without adequate care, many ADS clients would experience worsening conditions and require a higher level of care. Emergency room and hospital care—for which they have insufficient insurance or financial resources—would increase. Some clients would have to move to assisted living or skilled nursing facilities. Some could end up homeless. We know that’s not what anyone would choose for themselves if it can be avoided. One of the primary objectives of ADS case management services has always been to help people continue to live independently and avoid the need for costlier care settings.
Add the COVID-19 pandemic to the mix. The need to maintain our long-term care system is more apparent now than ever. Eliminating services for the people at highest risk of complications from COVID is foolhardy, to say the least. In so many ways, resolving the threat that looms over us is a life or death matter.
Solutions depend on both federal and state support
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which includes state and local relief and an extension on increased federal match for home- and community-based services as well as a second round of stimulus checks for U.S. residents in 2020. Now the U.S. Senate needs to step up.
The Long-Term Care Coalition’s message to Congress is clear:
- Pass an additional federal COVID-19 relief package for states.
- Extend the federal match increase for home and community-based services.
You can help by sending the same message to your elected representatives in Washington, DC—both Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Call 202-224-3121 to get connected to their offices. They need to hear from us to bolster their fight on our behalf.
For more information, bookmark N4A’s Advocacy Alert webpage. The time for advocacy for older adults is NOW!
July 26, 2020 was the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I highly recommend that you watch the Seattle Channel programming about this important civil rights law. View it here and bookmark the link for the future, in case you need to watch it in parts.
Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. She welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of AgeWise King County.