Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

There's No Place like Home Pennsylvania Needs to Better Fund Home and Community Care for Seniors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

There's No Place like Home Pennsylvania Needs to Better Fund Home and Community Care for Seniors

Article excerpt

Allegheny County officials last week announced they will be cutting back on the frequency of Meals on Wheels visits to older residents. Many of the program's volunteers are concerned about how this will affect those who are homebound.

Sadly, the cutbacks here in Allegheny County are being repeated in towns across Pennsylvania as the state's network of home- and community-based services is stretched to the breaking point.

Area Agencies on Aging have more than 6,000 older adults on waiting lists for assistance statewide. Senior community centers are deteriorating physically and many have reduced hours or cut programs. Parts of the state have no adult day care services, and low reimbursement rates are hurting professional caregiver recruiting and retention. This means thousands of older Pennsylvanians are being denied the health care and other services that can make the difference between staying at home and being forced into a nursing home.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania offers a unique way to improve senior support services without spending one state tax dollar. Thanks to innovative games and huge Powerball jackpots, the Pennsylvania Lottery continues to enjoy remarkable success. In fact, it is on track for another record sales year.

All that money is good news for older Pennsylvanians who, by law, are the exclusive beneficiaries of lottery proceeds. For the past few years, though, it's been hard to convince state officials to invest more in essential home- and community-based support programs. Let's hope that's changing.

The 2013-2014 state budget being negotiated in Harrisburg includes a proposed $50 million in new revenues for home- and community-based programs for seniors to help reduce waiting lists and stabilize struggling senior centers and service providers. This new money represents an important step toward improving the balance between nursing-home care and less expensive alternatives that allow older adults to remain at home.

There's plenty of room for improvement. A recent AARP study done in conjunction with the Scan Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund ranks Pennsylvania a disappointing 39th nationally in its balance of funding between institutional care and home- and community-based programs serving older adults. …

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