Action Needed, Now and for Our Future

Greater investment needed to protect vulnerable clients

Sometime this month, we will learn whether the State Legislature has done the right thing for fragile elders and adults with disabilities who benefit from the long-term care case management services provided by Aging and Disability Services (ADS).

Governor Jay Inslee addressed a passionate group of aging services advocates on Senior Lobby Day in Olympia (February 26, 2015).

As the Area Agency on Aging (AAA), ADS administers the state's Medicaid case management program in King County, coordinating in-home services for over 10,000 vulnerable adults per month. Case managers at ADS and with three contracted community providers connect clients with the help they need to bathe, dress, eat, find affordable housing and get life-saving medical equipment.

Over the past 10 years, the cost of delivering the service and the complexity of clients served has increased while state reimbursement rates have remained flat or decreased, compromising the quality of the program and the health and safety of vulnerable clients.

If the State fails to meet its obligation to adequately fund this program, the AAA may have no choice but to hand the day-to-day responsibilities back to the State. This is an awful choice. It would cost the State even more as clients who currently receive in-home services would be forced to enter costly nursing homes. It's estimated that managing cases locally saves the State $300 million a year.

Moreover, low-income seniors and adults with disabilities in our programs have case managers that they trust and rely on to help them get the personalized care they need. Our legislators should stick with what works.

State Senator Pramila Jayapal (37th District) welcomed aging services advocates on Senior Lobby Day in Olympia (February 26, 2015).

Last month, 20 mayors representing cities throughout King County sent a letter to the legislature urging them to allot the full $28 million to the State's Medicaid case management program as recommended by DSHS. Read it here. I am grateful for each of them. I am also grateful for the ADS Advisory Council members and other aging services advocates who have visited Olympia, written letters and sent Legislative Hotline messages. It's not too late to weigh in. The toll-free Legislative Hotline is open at 1-800-562-6000.

For a fact sheet on this issue, click here.

State Representative Joan McBride (48th District), second from left, met with Ava Frisinger and Eric Martenson from the ADS Advisory Council and Diana Thompson, representing the Hearing Loss Association of Washington.

Planning for the future

Every four years, ADS and other Area Agencies on Aging around the country develop a four-year plan. The agencies also prepare annual updates. Plans and updates for Seattle-King County are submitted to the State Unit on Aging, part of the DSHS Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, which in turn files a State Plan on Aging with the federal Administration on Aging, all part of the Aging Network authorized by the Older Americans Act of 1965.

ADS is in the process of collecting information about issues and trends, which will inform development of their 2016–2019 Area Plan on Aging. We welcome more responses to an online survey (also available in print and several other formats). If you have any questions about the survey, contact ADS planner Karen Winston (karen.winston@seattle.gov).  

We also welcome testimony at a Focus on the Future forum on Behavioral Health & Memory Care on Friday, April 3, 2015 (9:00–11:30 a.m.) at Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue. Thank you to the Bellevue Network on Aging and The City of Bellevue for co-sponsoring the forum with ADS.

The Area Plan on Aging for 2016–2019 will be reviewed by the ADS Advisory Council this summer and submitted to the State this fall.

Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. Ava welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council, when they occur. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.

Area Plan on Aging Survey

Have you taken the Area Plan on Aging survey yet? It will help Aging and Disability Services—the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County—develop objectives for its 2016–2019 roadmap. The survey will remain open only a short time longer. Please visit www.agingkingcounty.org/update_process.htm to learn more.