Home care waiting lists began this month

September 25, 2009
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The following letter was sent to local legislators:

I am writing to advise you that on Tues., Sept. 8, a statewide waiting list began in the home care program that could ultimately affect several thousand seniors who apply for care at home.

I want to emphasize that this will be a statewide waiting list affecting all 27 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs), including Ethos, which serves the Southwest Boston area and is located in Jamaica Plain. Every ASAP will be using the same uniform procedures for managing who gets into the program, so that seniors across the Commonwealth are treated equally.

Please note that this is not a complete shutdown of the program. Many elders with critical unmet needs will still be able to enroll, and there are certain categories of individuals who will be exempted from the waiting list—including cases involving elder abuse, people being discharged from hospitals or nursing homes, elders enrolled in hospice, elders eligible for the Enhanced Community Options program or elders enrolled in the MassHealth waiver.

For this reason, please let your constituent services staff know that they should continue to refer cases to Ethos, because some people will be enrolled. We cannot predict when this managed intake situation will end—but it is very likely that loss of funding in the FY 2010 appropriation for home care will result in a waiting list for the remaining 10 months of the fiscal year. We are working closely with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to make sure that consumers who are eligible for care get the support they need.

As you might imagine, reducing enrollment in the home care program is a very painful process for us. Our goal is to provide care, not deny it. But we must operate within our budget. Ethos will do everything we can to respond to requests for home care services for seniors in our service area, but there will still be many seniors who are put on a waiting list. We have not had waiting lists since last May, but this year the wait lists are likely to be much worse than in FY 2009.

Today, Massachusetts spends only 39 percent of its long-term care MassHealth dollars on community care. Sixty-one percent goes to institutions. We hope you will continue to work with us to rebalance our spending priorities, so that Community First is truly implemented, and waiting lists in the community do not recur. Our commitment should be to honor the preference of seniors to live at home. We cannot do that based on declining appropriations. For every one person in a nursing home, we can keep two elders with similar disabilities in the community.

For more information on the waiting list rules, please contact us. We are working as hard as we can to meet the needs of seniors living in Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roslindale, West Roxbury and Mattapan.

We will update you of any changes in the current wait list situation.

Dale Mitchell
Executive Director, Ethos