Illinois Agency Says Senior Home-Care Funding Depleted
By Jeff Bossert
The Illinois Department on Aging announced on March 15 that its funding for home-based senior care agencies has dried up.
Those nearly 300 agencies that provide home-based senior care have relied on new funds from the state to pay the prior fiscal year’s bills, and directors say it’s catching up with them.
East Central Area Agency on Aging Mike O’Donnell said in a survey done by the Home Care Provider Association, 37 percent of respondents said an additional month in delays would force them to shut down.
He said some agencies are finding ways to survive by handling contracts in multiple states. Without additional funding appropriated by lawmakers, O'Donnell said the seniors stand to lose the most.
“All seniors eligible for the community care program are by definition, eligible for nursing home placement," he said. "That is, their needs are such if they didn’t receive this kind of help, they would be candidates for nursing home placement.”
O’Donnell cites a report by the American Association of Retired Persons, which shows the Department on Aging’s Fiscal 2013 budget was burdened with $173-million in bills from 2012.
Diane Drew is the Executive Director of the Decatur-based CHELP, or the Community Home Environmental Learning Project.
She said the agency’s staff is still getting paid, but it’s not known how long agencies like hers, that contract with Illinois’ Department on Aging will survive.
270 such provider groups have received such letters, telling them state funds would be exhausted this month.
Drew says some agencies may have to absorb clients and staff from others that shut down. But she said CHELP’s structure is a bit different.
“We do contract with the Department of Rehabilitation, and it’s a much a smaller program, so the money for that has been coming on a pretty regular basis," she said. "We just cut back so much on our administrative staff, that’s another way we’re able to survive. We are bare bones administrative staff, and I have people doing multiple jobs.”
Drew says her staff of 100 is fortunate in that they have other funding sources, like the Department of Rehabilitation,and its building is paid for, so it doesn’t have to pay rent.
CHELP, which serves about 325 residents in Macon County, has about 100 employees, most of them out in the field helping seniors who would otherwise have to live in a nursing home.
Drew said her agency ‘has never been in this desperate’ a situation.