Thursday, May 6, 2010

resending as text file -- IHHS article

I am resending this as text file.  Some folks had trouble opening the attachment I sent yesterday. -- Judy

Attached is the article by Department of Public Social Services Director Philip Browning regarding the In Home Supportive Services program.  If you have any questions, you may call Shirley Christensen, his special assistant, at (562) 908-8311 or e-mail her at




It’s Cheaper to Stay at Home

Philip L. Browning, Director

Los Angeles County, Department of Public Social Services

May 5, 2010


We all yearn to grow-up, get a job, work hard, become successful and eventually retire to enjoy our senior years.  After all, isn’t that what we work so hard for?  However, as we get older and more dependent on others, those senior years can quickly turn from enjoyment to devastation if we can no longer care for ourselves. 


Ms. Brady (name changed for this article) is a 98 year-old woman who lives alone in a one bedroom apartment and has no living relatives.  She is frail, her hands shiver and she suffers from chronic arthritis.  Ms. Brady uses a four-prong walker to move about her small apartment.  After many years of hard work, raising her family and trying her best to manage her senior years, Ms. Brady’s main goal now is to remain safely in her own home with dignity and respect.


Ms. Brady entered the job market in her early teens and worked well into her senior years.  Now she survives on a fixed income, barely enough to cover her rent, food and medication.  Ms. Brady is not complaining about her circumstances because she knows that she can count on the “In-Home Supportive Services” (IHSS) Program, a statewide program managed in Los Angeles County by the Department of Public Social Services. 


The IHSS Program pays for a worker to come into Ms. Brady’s home to help her with household tasks such as cooking, house cleaning, laundry, shopping, and with personal care services such as bathing, dressing, and toileting since she cannot perform these tasks due to her age and disability.  The Program is cost-effective and allows seniors and people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes with dignity and respect. 


However, due to State budget constraints, the IHSS Program is in jeopardy.  The Governor wants to substantially reduce, even eliminate the program to help the State save money.  Despite the Governor’s position, many officials point to the fact that the IHSS Program saves taxpayers millions of dollars by keeping seniors and the disabled population out of costly nursing homes - which is estimated to be about six times higher than what is paid to workers to provide IHSS services. 


In Los Angeles County, Ms. Brady is one of the 170,454 IHSS consumers (or about 92% of the County’s total IHSS caseload) who would be pushed out of the IHSS program if the Legislature agrees to the Governor’s proposed cut.  Those elderly and disabled persons who cannot “fend” for themselves will be at risk of being institutionalized. 


It’s economically sound to retain this program because the average cost for the State to allow elderly and disabled to stay at home through the IHSS program is estimated to be only around $10,000 per year, compared to the cost of being placed in a nursing home which costs about $55,000 per year.  Ironically, the federal government currently pays 62% of the cost to provide IHSS services.  If these drastic cuts are made to the IHSS program, the State stands to lose this federal assistance.  The State will also have a much larger bill to pay in order to cover all of the displaced IHSS consumers who will likely require some level of more expensive institutionalization. 


The State of California is not prepared to accommodate such a high demand in nursing care facilities.  A recent UCLA study revealed that there are fewer than 20,000 licensed nursing home beds empty at any one point in time statewide.  This means that overcrowding will likely become a hot button issue in California.


The hard facts reveal that programs like IHSS have helped cut the institutionalization rates of adults 65 and over in half - from 5.4% in 1970 to 2.7% in 2008.  If the Governor succeeds in his proposal to make substantial reductions to the IHSS program, persons entering skilled nursing facilities will increase.


All public service agencies should be working hard to provide the best possible services to the general public at the lowest possible cost.  The bottom line is that it’s cheaper to allow our seniors and the disabled population to remain in their own home safely with dignity and respect as opposed to moving them into higher cost skilled nursing facilities.


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