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The Cost of Not Caring for NC's Aged, Blind and Disabled

June 10, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolinians unable to care for themselves because of age or a disability are holding their breath Tuesday, waiting to see what happens at the state Capitol.

Last week the North Carolina Senate announced major cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels and Medicaid in its version of the new state budget. Residents like Kay Castillo, the vice chair of the North Carolina Coalition on Aging, are hoping House members go easier on funding for the state's aging population, and people who have disabilities. The House is expected to reveal its version of the budget Tuesday.

"It's going to rest on the backs of whatever family members might be available to these seniors and disabled adults," says Castillo. "A lot of people are going to be scrambling to find placements for their aging family members."

The Senate version eliminated Medicaid eligibility for more than 5,000 older adults and people with disabilities in assisted-living facilities. A separate proposed funding cut would eliminate services for an additional 1,500 older citizens that help them stay in their communities with help from services like home-delivered meals and in-home care services. There are 16,000 North Carolinians currently on that waiting list.

Joann Wood of Wilson and her husband are working hard to take care of his 91-year-old mother. She is currently on a waiting list to get on an official waiting list for in-home aide visits. Wood says they're doing everything possible to keep her mother-in-law in her home. If home-delivered meals are cut, they'll have to place her in an assisted-living facility at a cost to the state of $4,000 a month.

"It doesn't make economic sense for them not to fund this and keep these people in their homes," Wood says. "These are our older citizens who lived during World War II in the rebuilding of our nation. These are not folks who can go out and work."

Castillo believes lawmakers, in their drive to present a balanced budget, may not always appreciate what cuts to programs like this might mean.

"In my opinion, it's a line on the budget," says Castillo. "It's sad to see this kind of thing being taken away from our aged, blind and disabled population, and they're folks who really, really need our support."

The Senate plan could also impact Medicaid services for some people, including physical therapy, prescription drugs and prosthetics.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC