Community Care Programs in Illinois are Safe – For Now

I would guess that a slew of caregivers who read this blog know all too well the value of community-based care. If you’re not sure what that is, think of the home health care and adult day care services that have allowed your family member to live at home instead of move into a nursing home. Pretty valuable, isn’t it?

Yet, did you realize that in March of this year, the Illinois Department of Aging tapped out the funding for community-based care programs for the rest of the fiscal year?

That’s right – in March, providers who had already been waiting months for back payments from the state were told that, well, there would be NO more payments, period. This forced the state legislature and community-based care agencies to face the brutal truth that programs might be closed, which could in turn send individuals to nursing homes unnecessarily.

(c) Illinois.gov

(c) Illinois.gov

Thankfully, the Illinois House and Senate got off their butts and responded to this dire wake-up call. Unsure whether I was hallucinating or whether indeed I should spike my coffee with some celebratory whiskey, I was overjoyed to read that legislation was recently passed to reform the state’s community care programs. The legislation entails streamlining services in order to rein in costs while still providing high quality care. Worthy of another whiskey shot, a proposal to provide $173 million in extra funding to make sure community care providers get paid for current fiscal year services actually passed in the General Assembly.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are close to 600,000 family caregivers in the state of Illinois providing unpaid care to their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia; keep in mind that this number doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of other family caregivers caring for someone with another chronic illness. Many of these caregivers rely on community-based care in order to keep their family members at home. Without it, difficult choices would have to be made that would result in emotional costs to the family and financial costs to the state (which we all know we can’t afford).

I applaud the Illinois House and Senate for saving our community care programs – for now. But I fear how long this refuge from funding shortfalls will last. Will we have the foresight to continue funding community-based services that actually work and that reduce long-term care costs over time?

I sure as hell hope so, or else I’ll be spiking my coffee for a different reason.

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