Survey: Budget Crisis Will Mean State Service Cuts for Elders

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"The economic slowdown has had a profound effect on states and heir ability to provide services to older adults and individuals with disabilities," concludes a new report by the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASIJA).

Conducted in late November, the NASUA survey included 56 state and territorial offices on aging. The s udy found that "nearly 70% of state units on aging are anticipating cuts in programs for older adults and individuals with disabilities in 2009."

What's more, survey respondents in the majority of states believe the picture for fiscal year 2010 will be "far worse than the fiscal condition in this current fiscal year with 25 states expecting shortfalls of $60 billion," says the report.

Even the few states not now incurring shortfalls "are bracing for more difficult times ahead," says the NASUA report.

FOOD, SHELTER, HEALTHCARE

"The short-term problem for older adults and individuals with disabilities is the need for food, shelter and healthcare," said NASUA President Patricia Polansky, assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Division of Aging and Community Services. She added in a release, "Our survey clearly demonstrates increases in requests for services to fulfill those needs for our most vulnerable citizens."

Survey respondents expect many states to slice elder services to help balance their budgets, a measure i survey participants believe will result in lengthening waiting lists for services. "Nearly 85% of states are experiencing more requests for transportation and home-delivered meals and 62% for home-heating assistance," nasua found.

"One troubling trend," the report reveals, "is the rise in calls for adult protective services reported in 33% of the states." State adult protective services programs investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults or people with disabilities.

Also receiving increased calls for help are long-term care ombudsman programs, which advocate for and assist elders in places such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

More than three-quarters of state officials said they hope to protect their 2009 budgets from deep cuts in services by curtailing administrative costs, such as by moving to cheaper offices, freezing hiring, and trimming staff or reducing their hours. However, most told nasua that they expect service reductions in 2010, to help balance state budgets. Every state but Vermont requires a balanced budget.

One survey respondent echoed others succinctly by saying his state "would be looking to protect basic services, such as supporting food, shelter, and basic medical care."

LIMITING ACCESS

However, in spite of their reluctance to diminish direct services, says the report, state authorities in aging told NASUA they would limit consumer access to programs, such as by restricting the duration of services or capping the annual amount the states pay for services. "An unintended consequence of such reductions could be an increase in the rate of institutionalization, which would be more costly to the states and federal government," states the report.

In addition, several states said they were reviewing plans to tighten eligibility standards for their programs, possibly to reduce the number of those eligible. …