Governor’s Cutbacks Threatens In Home Supportive Services Program
Reductions to Severely Impact Caregivers, Seniors and Children
An 82-year-old man and his 77 year old wife rely daily on in home help. The provider cleans the house and administrates medicine to her husband. Governor Schwarzenegger’s sweeping cutbacks to the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program will likely reduce the hours the provider can spend in the house. The husband will be responsible for his own medication, which is problematic in that on his own, he sometimes forgets which medications he takes and the time they are supposed to be taken, which causes allergic reactions. Without a provider these mean that her or her husband will spend more time in the emergency room than home.
Â Using his veto power, Governor Schwarzenegger removed important exemptions from the California State budget that the Legislature put into place to protect services provided to IHSS recipients. The $334 million reduction in funding affects eligibility requirements and provides an uncertain future for individuals who have depended on caregivers to help them remain in their homes. The decrease will also affect wages for those who have cared for those in need to function in their daily lives. While the effective date of these changes has not yet been released, but thought to be October 1, 2009, the date is looming and the severity of the cutbacks remains unknown to consumers, providers and those responsible for its implementation.
According to research by SEIU-ULTCW, the largest service employee union in California, these cuts are anticipated to have a dramatic impact on both the providers and the consumers who need these services. As background, IHSS provides assistance to seniors, the disabled or blind. It also assists disabled children. It is considered an alternative to out-of-home care. The services authorized by IHSS are broad and range from housecleaning and meal preparation to personal care and protective supervision for the mentally impaired. Individual service need is calculated by the Functional Index (FI), which uses a weighted average to determine the hours of care an IHSS recipient receives. The FI is based on a scale of 1-5, with 1 meaning that services are not necessary and a 5 indicating the most need of assistance. Every task that for which someone requires assistance is rated on this score. However, the formula for scoring is not understood by the agencies required to implement the services upon which it is based.
Says LaPhonza Butler, Trustee of SEIU-ULTCW, “With the rush to get the State budget signed, many of the changes dictated by the cutbacks will threaten and/or jeopardize the care of those who are in dire need of assistance. No one yet knows who or how these cut will affect consumers–and that is the most frightening aspect of it all. Specifically, under the new budget, recipients with an average FI score of 2 will lose all services. This could mean the absence of services for children as they would score lower on the scale as they don’t have their own homes. Imagine the impact on the parents. Domestic and related services (i.e. housework, shopping and meal preparation) will be eliminated for those with an FI score below 4. To bring this point home, an Alzheimer’s patient who requires protective services but does not many physical disabilities will likely lose services that make the difference between them remaining at home or being institutionalized. Not only does this leave individuals unable to care for themselves with little to no options, it also reduces wages for our members as it reduces their hours. This affects their ability to take care of their own families. The enormity of the overall impact is unfathomable.”
Butler is calling for action by both those who care for and those in need of in home services. “Write or call the Governor and let him know how these cuts are affecting the quality of life for so many. While we understand and have been proponents of change that will reduce fraud in this industry, we know that many of the budget reductions will disproportionately affect minorities, children and the underprivileged. We are their voice. As it stands now, the Governor is asking people reliant on these services to make a choice as to whether they require a meal or to be bathed-they deserve the right to both as these are basic human needs.”