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WA Seniors Become Latest State Budget Casualties

June 29, 2009

MARYSVILLE, Wash. – Budget cuts mandated by the state legislature officially go into effect this week, and some Washington families will be scrambling to figure out what to do with parents or grandparents who have been in Adult Day Health programs. Around the state, eight centers providing these programs are closing, all victims of the budget cutback.

Adult Day Health centers are places where senior citizens with chronic medical conditions get rehabilitation services. They also offer seniors opportunities for socializing and provide a break for their caregivers.

Nora Gibson runs ElderHealth Northwest. She says the legislature seems to have thought families would be able to take up the slack.

"They're predicting that no one will move into a skilled nursing facility, even though this cut is happening – and that's not a good bet. I think families will try really, really hard, but this is kind of like a three-legged stool: If you pull one leg out, it gets wobbly."

The Adult Day Health budget was cut by 70 percent. As a result, Gibson's company is closing centers in Marysville and Seattle, which means laying off 40 employees. Gibson says the lawmakers' decision has prompted many to assume the state is putting senior citizens at the bottom of its priority list.

"Elders took really big hits, and service providers for elders and disabled people took cuts in rates. There have been cuts in hours for people who are receiving home care services, and Adult Day Health was cut significantly. It makes you wonder – what are they thinking?"

She contends that cutting community and home-care services will cost the state more eventually, as seniors run out of choices and end up in nursing homes, where the state picks up a much higher tab.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA