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Cuts in state and federal funds are straining the financial resources of Just Friends Adult Day Services and could begin to severely limit who among the frail population gets its structured care.
The issue is especially significant because Just Friends leaders say clients often have few other choices for trained, daytime supervision and medical care for an elderly parent or grandparent who cannot be left alone at home. Also, alternatives such as nursing home care are much more expensive and not quite needed yet by many families.
Just Friends, launched in 1987, offers daytime supervision, medical care and activities for adults who can not be left at home alone. The agency has seen a 70 percent decrease in Medicaid waiver payments between 2008 and 2011 and a 12 percent decline in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs funding over the same period, according to figures provided by Marilyn Clerc, the nonprofit agency’s executive director.
Over the past four years, the agency saw its fee revenue drop by $48,764. The changes helped lead to a negative end-of-year balance last year of $35,960, according to the figures.
Numbers for 2012 are not yet available, but for now, the agency’s financial reserves are covering that gap.
“But we’re carefully watching our assets,” Clerc said.
Fundraisers, including a June 30 poker tournament at Mill Race Center, which houses Just Friends, are another way to make up shortfalls.
North Vernon’s Fredia Owens, 72, a new Just Friends client, gets to the facility each weekday from her home 20 miles away via the Just Friends van. The pickup and drop-off service is funded by Medicaid dollars that have been trimmed.
“I think it’s really fun here,” Owens said, referring to the group walks through Mill Race Park and the mild stretching to music. “They’ve been really good to me.”
Five years ago, Gov. Mitch Daniels’ commitment to funding home-related care for seniors and others allowed Just Friends to expand and add a nurse to its staff.
“Because of that, we increased our expenses because there was such a need,” Clerc said.
Now, because of state trims, that is down to one full-time client and one part-time. Many other clients struggle to pay out of pocket even half the full cost of their care, Clerc said.
“Consequently, our financial reserves are dropping dramatically,” she said.
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said he’s optimistic that the next Indiana budget approved before July 2013 will reinstate some of the previously trimmed funding for help such as adult day care. Last year, lawmakers restored a small part of the previously slashed funding for the Community and Home Options to Institutional Care program.
And a few more Medicaid waiver slots are set to open by July 1, according to staff at Columbus’ Aging and Community Services of South Central Indiana,
It is aimed at helping seniors remain independent as long as possible.
“So, yes, there is hope,” Smith said. “Doesn’t it just make more sense to keep someone in their own home than putting them in a nursing home?”
Clerc estimated state costs for a Just Friends client is about $1,000 per month. Smith estimated state costs for a typical nursing home patient to be $6,500 per month.
“We’re going to have to make some commonsense decisions to allocate less money per patient when we can,” Smith said.
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