By BARBARA E. RILEY
Ohio Department of Aging Director
AS OUR country and state continue to feel the effects of the worst economy in decades, many of us are examining our personal budgets and cutting expenses. The same scenario is occurring in government. Like most state services, the Ohio Department of Aging’s programs will have less funding in the state’s next two-year operating budget than in the previous two years.
With fewer resources available for our long-term care programs, the department will need to limit enrollment for home- and community-based services. These programs provide Medicaid-eligible individuals services such as medical equipment or adult day care in an individual’s home or an assisted living setting.
Anyone who has these services currently will not lose them.
Waiting lists for these services likely will form, but if you or a loved one needs services, do not let a possible wait keep you from applying. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community. An agency representative will evaluate your situation and help you determine what type of care is best. Taking this step sooner rather than later will help reduce your waiting period so that you or your loved one will receive care as quickly as possible.
Despite the difficulties ahead, the department remains committed to serving seniors and adults with disabilities and re-engineering our current long-term care system to one based on the type of care Ohioans want and need. We have a couple of tools available to help in these efforts, including the Home First provision, which grants people who are in nursing facilities the right to bypass waiting lists for home- and community-based services. This means that if you or a loved one is in a nursing facility and care at home or another setting might be an appropriate substitute, you do not have to wait for services.
Additionally, the department will work with other state agencies to forecast the need for services in all settings. If demand for services in alternative settings exceeds our funding levels, and if nursing facility usage is less than what was projected, additional funding for home- and community-based services may be available from the Nursing Home Stabilization Fund.
Although our resources are limited, the state budget includes systemic changes that support a more flexible long-term care system. We will explore existing housing options for seniors to see if we may be able to couple these with our long-term care programs. The aging network also will visit individuals in nursing facilities to determine if they may benefit from a different care setting.
While recent news about reductions in state services may cause some anxiety, do not let this keep you or a family member from seeking the help you may need. Your area agency will help you and your family figure out what services will best fit your needs and how to receive care as quickly as possible.
Riley is the director for the Ohio Department of Aging.