Senior Lobby Day: Budget Looking Better For Now


 

37th District State Rep. Eric Pettigrew (center)—a long-time champion of kinship care and caregiver support services—welcomed Advisory Council members George Dicks and Diane Snell and ADS staff Maureen Linehan and Karen Winston.




 

On February 23, six Aging and Disability Services (ADS) Advisory Council members traveled to Olympia to participate in the Washington Senior Citizens Foundation's annual Senior Lobby Day. Unlike last year's snowy adventure, the day was blessed with sunny, mild weather. And they were happy to deliver a sunny, upbeat message of "thank you!" to State House members, who passed a budget earlier in the week that restored most of the aging network program cuts proposed by the Governor last November; however, there is still much work to be done.

41st District State Rep. Judy Clibborn—a nurse by training—discussed state-funded aging and disability services with ADS Advisory Council member Dave Rogers.

The House budget, released two days before Senior Lobby Day, is a huge improvement on the Governor's proposal. But it still contains a few setbacks. For one thing there is a 20 percent cut to Adult Day Health programs, a cut large enough to drive many—if not all—providers out of business. For another, the state's Family Caregiver Support Program saw elimination of the second year of what was supposed to be a two-year funding increase. ADS administers the contracts for these caregiver services in King County and recently launched a new website aimed at supporting unpaid caregivers.

Losing the second year of caregiver support funding would be a double blow to the program. The additional caregivers that were enrolled using first-year funding would likely lose much of their services and a study to determine the extent to which caregiver support program reduces the use of long-term care—funded as a part of the expansion—would not be able to show any final results. It is hoped that this critical study will prove once and for all the state's Family Caregiver Support Program actually saves the state money by preventing or delaying Medicaid enrollments and keeping older adults out of costly nursing homes.

Senior Lobby Day participants voiced their serious concerns about the potential loss of Family Caregiver Support Program and Adult Day Health funds, and the legislators they met with seemed receptive to their concerns.

The good news (or even-better news, given how bad things looked a few months ago) is that the Senate Budget, which was released the Tuesday after Senior Lobby Day, restores both of the above cuts. Now the two budgets have to be reconciled, and the Governor must sign off on the final proposal. So nothing is final yet. But Senior Lobby Day quite likely had an impact in restoring the cuts. The great thing about going down to Olympia is that, for effective advocacy, nothing beats voicing your concerns face-to-face with your legislators. And sometimes it's equally important to say "thank you."

—Doug Ricker, Aging and Disability Services


More Senior Lobby Day Moments

Kirkland Senior Council member Betty Stevens and Sandra Hayes
met with 45th District State Rep. Larry Springer while Bellevue
Network on Aging facilitator Cathy VonWald looked on.

ADS planner Doug Ricker (left) accompanied Advisory Council members
Molly Holmes and Tony Provine to meet with 46th District
State Rep. Gerry Pollet (right).

ADS planner Gigi Meinig (left) arranged for Advisory Council members
Molly Holmes and Tony Provine to meet 41st District State
Rep. Marcie Maxwell in her office.