Saturday, August 1, 2009

New State Budgets Send Message That Seniors Are Not Valued

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer

With several key senior programs facing drastic cuts, those who work with this population say the new state budget gives a new spin to the term "elder abuse."

Programs that provide food for seniors, and also help keep them in their own homes are slated to be gutted by Oct. 1, according to the Solano-Napa Area Agency on Aging.

In signing the 2009-10 budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated nearly $10 million for senior programs statewide, thereby crippling services for millions of seniors, said the state Association of Area Agency on Aging.

"I would call it a crisis," said Leanne Martinsen, Solano-Napa Area Agency on Aging executive director. "We thought (a few) programs would get cut, but not eliminated altogether."

The new state budget sends a message that seniors are not valued and also gives a new definition to the term "elder abuse," said Clay Kempf, state area agency president, in a written announcement.

The Solano-Napa group was bracing for big budget reductions, but is unprepared to deal with loss of all funding for the three programs, about $381,000 annually, Martinsen said.

The agency will get some state funding for the three programs this fiscal year, but was informed funding would be eliminated Oct. 1, Martinsen said.

"These are very significant cuts" and come at a time when the agency is seeing a greater demand for services, Martinsen said.

The Linkages case management program which allows 119 seniors and functionally impaired adults locally to stay at home rather go into institutions, is one program that will lose funding, Martinsen said.

Also targeted are Alzheimer's Day Care Resource Centers (ADCRC), which provide day care for those with Alzheimer's disease, and other forms of dementia who can't be served by other programs.

Last year these centers provided 9,390 days of care for 148 adults in Solano and Napa counties, according to the agency. The programs are operated by Hospice and Adult Day Services of Napa Valley, and North Bay in Vacaville.

The senior brown bag programs that last year delivered nearly 330,000 pounds of food to 984 low-income seniors are also being cut, the agency announced.

Efforts are under way to have local food banks pick up those services so that seniors continue to get food regularly, Martinsen said. Other funding sources for the other two programs are not available, she said.

Martinsen said the agency is planning several fundraisers to help make up for the shortfall. The group uses volunteers and accepts donations. For more details, call (707) 644-6612, or go to www.aaans.org.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@thnewsnet.com or (707) 553-6832.

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