Disabled say cuts to personal care services could land them in institutions

A number of disabled Nevadans told state officials Tuesday that budget cuts will result in many of them losing jobs, losing their independence and being institutionalized.

"What they're cutting is bathing, grooming and dressing," said longtime disabled advocate Paul Gowins.

He and Robert Desruisseaux, of the Nevada Disability Advocacy & Law Center, said the cuts, which will save about $1.6 million this fiscal year, are short sighted because they will result in people now living on their own being placed in much more expensive institutional care.

The initial letter from Nevada's Health Care Financing and Policy division advised people their personal care services could be cut in half and that the exercise services for those in need would be eliminated because of the state's budget crisis.

Those services provide the severely disabled with help bathing, getting dressed and other services to enable them to continue living on their own.

Candy Roper of Carson City said she is wheelchair bound but, with the services she now receives, is able to work, support herself and maintain her own residence.

But that requires six hours of help a day, she said.

"I am one of those people who is going to be really hurt by this cut," she said. "It takes me two and a quarter hours to get ready to go to work. If it's going to be cut to three hours a day, what am I supposed to do the rest of the day?"

She said she would lose her job and home and have to move to an institution.

Division Administrator Chuck Duarte told her that initial letter will be followed by one specific to her case and doesn't mean every person receiving services will see them cut in half. He also indicated that services may be increased in some cases "to prevent institutionalization.

And he said there is an appeal process she can use. But Gowins said that appeal is very limited in most cases.

Marina Valdez of Las Vegas said she is a single mom with a a severely disabled 20 year old daughter who, if her services are cut in half, may have to be institutionalized. She said that will cost the state upwards of $200 a day because the state won't provide a few hours of personal care services. She said one friend recently put his daughter into institutional care in Arizona, which is costing the state of Nevada $550 a day.

And several providers warned that reduced services and elimination of exercise programs would result in people now on their own being put in institutions.

Gowins told Duarte there are other ways to save money for the state. He said changing the rules in Medicaid to allow providers to provide some of the simpler services rather than limiting all those services to registered nurses could save the state up to $5 million a year, eliminating the need for this year's cuts.

Desruisseaux said nurses aren't necessary for all skilled services because other providers can be trained to handle them at a much lower cost.

Duarte told the audience these cuts have already been approved by the governor's office and the special session of the Legislature and will be enacted.

Gowins said afterward he and other advocates will have to take the issues up with the 2009 Legislature. He said they have to identify the people who need services and how serious that need is "so we don't get lost again when we come in to the Legislature."

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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