On Friday, April 16, I paid a visit to the local office of Assemblyman Martin Garrick(R) to discuss possible cuts to IHSS (In Home Support Services) and Medi-Cal (Medicaid). Since I am a constituent of his, it was important that he hear from one of his constituents who could be adversely affected by cuts to in-home care. I went with Rachel Vega and Connie Soucy, both from Access to Independence of San Diego. The Assemblyman was up in Sacramento, so we met with his staff.
With the serious budget problems in California there is a need to make cuts, but they are looking at these programs which are beneficial to people with disabilities to save money. IHSS, which is faced with cuts or even worse--elimination, is a very important program for people with disabilities and the elderly. It allows these people to get assistance so that they are able to live in the community, rather than being shut away and isolated in institutions. It also allows people with disabilities to hold jobs and to contribute to the community. I get my in-home nursing care through the Medi-Cal waiver program, which allows me to live at home and be part of the community rather than a nursing home. If Governor Schwarzenegger can think about making cuts to or even eliminating IHSS, there is no reason to think he won't put his sights on the Medi-Cal waiver program. I had to impress on them the importance of letting people with disabilities live in the community, be it through IHSS or the Medi-Cal waiver program.
I spoke to them about the benefits of a person with a disability living in the community through my personal experience. Since I was trached and vented almost sixteen years ago, I was able to live at home and not end up being sentenced to a nursing home. Being able to live at home, has allowed me to be a part of the community, to get out in the community, spend money in the community, and have a better quality of life. I told them people are more susceptible to all kinds of bugs and viruses in a nursing home and that it is much cheaper for a person to live at home than a nursing home. (With IHSS, for example, it costs about $10,000 a year for a person to live at home, versus $50,000-$70,000 a year for a person to be in a nursing home.). If the IHSS cuts occur home health care aides could lose jobs, or if the program were eliminated, over 24,000 people in San Diego County would be out of work. At a time of high unemployment in the state this would be unwise.
I felt that his staff was attentive to what we had to say. It is my hope that we made some impact, and that maybe what we said will help in the effort to save IHSS and allow people with disabilities to continue to live in the community and keep their dignity. This proposed cost-cutting action, if enacted would end up costing the state more in the cost of housing many more people in nursing homes (The nursing home industry would benefit from more inmates to take care of). It would make it harder for those people with disabilities who hold jobs and who rely on in home care to get them ready for work, to hold their jobs. This could make the 70% unemployment rate for people with disabilities higher, and without a job, they will not make money, and without money they won't be spending money or paying taxes. Some people will say that family members should help take care of their own. That would be true in an ideal wold, but family members can only do so much, especially if they have jobs and have other responsibilities. I felt good being able to do my part in the fight to allow people with disabilities to continue living in the community, without fear of ending up in a nursing home and losing their quality of life. The disabled community has made great strides in it's fight for independent living and it would be a shame to take such a big step backwards.