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Home ... or Nursing Home?

January 29, 2007

Advocates for people with disabilities will be listening closely when Governor Eliot Spitzer unveils his state budget this week. They say Spitzer could go a long way toward his goal of a patient-centered healthcare system if he would consider housing subsidies to help people move out of expensive nursing homes and back into the community.

Michael Costello, a 55-year-old carpenter with a physical impairment, knows the problem firsthand. He says the old system the Governor calls "too institution-centered" put his life on hold for more than two years. After becoming disabled, he got stuck in an expensive nursing home -- when all he really needed was wheelchair-accessible housing.

"The state could save a fortune if it provided affordable housing to some of the people now in nursing homes. I spent two-and-a-half years in a nursing home and it nearly drove me crazy, looking to get housing."

Disability advocates say if the Governor shifted some resources to housing subsidies, literally thousands of New Yorkers with physical limitations could find less expensive housing alternatives. But the subsidies will be necessary because housing costs are so high in New York, says Susan Dooha of the Center for Independence of the Disabled.

"Just a little investment in housing help would go a long way to achieving the governor's goal of patient-centered care, that spends money in the right places and lets people stay where they want to -- in the community."

Dooha says the state could also save a bundle on health care, by spending a little on housing help.

"We're talking about maybe 5,000 to 8,000 people who have said already that they would rather live in their communities than in nursing homes. Every single day, there are people discharged from hospitals to nursing homes, because they don't have the right kind of care in place to stay at home."

Michael Clifford/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - NY