Janice Ayres: Let’s turn our energies to keeping senior citizens in their homes | NevadaAppeal.com

Janice Ayres: Let’s turn our energies to keeping senior citizens in their homes

Janice Ayres

Let’s stop with the post-election cheap shots, shall we? Look at all the energy and hatred it takes to write all those nasty letters. Let’s put these same energies towards helping our newly elected officials, especially our new governor, to get this state jump-started!

All the people who ran for office are winners and should be appreciated and thanked for stepping up to the plate. Not everyone I supported was elected; however, the majority rules, so let’s get on with it shall we?

I personally began the process with a hand-delivered congratulatory and welcoming letter to our new governor, Brian Sandoval, and asked for a personal meeting to discuss the plight of our low-income, frail seniors who are at great risk of losing what few services they have to keep them out of costly institutions.

I not only brought a problem, but better yet, some cost-savings solutions that we have found that will work for everyone. These solutions make it possible for seniors to receive the services they need to remain at home and the state saves nearly $1 billion in institutional costs. With the reductions in Medicaid-covered services and several Aging Services programs dropped, financial support for non-profit and for-profit community based organizations (CBOs) needs to remain in place that have so cost effectively maintained frail seniors at home for more than eight years.

At the 2009 Legislature, these some 45 agencies were at risk of losing their Tobacco Settlement Funding (TSF) that kept 12,000 seniors out of institutions which otherwise could have cost the state at least $1 billion! Knowing that the state had neither the funds, the facilities, nor the desire to institutionalize these seniors, the Legislature wisely refused to securitize the $1.7 billion TSF into $600 million to help plug a hole in the state budget. Wisely, because it would all have been lost in the stock market crash.

Now the TSF money is again an issue for the 2011 Legislature. We must be certain that these funds that the late Gov. Kenny Guinn set aside to keep seniors at home remain intact. Anything else is a quick budget fix with long-term ramifications for huge institutional costs. It costs these agencies about $375 a year to keep a senior at home, compared to at least $76,000 in an institution.

I’ve been advised that the governor has seen my letter. Will he give me that meeting? I certainly hope so as we can help save the state millions with some innovative and workable solutions. Keeping seniors at home and out of costly institutions is a win-win for everyone!

• Janice Ayres is executive director of Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program.