Budget Cuts Take Enormous Toll On Arizona’S Senior Services

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Advocates for senior citizens rallied last week against cuts to a state program that provides in-home help such as bathing, dressing and grooming.

With additional cuts proposed for the coming fiscal year, some seniors relying on the program will be forced to move into nursing homes, representatives of groups including AARP said at the State Capitol Feb. 24.

“We need to raise up our voices because these people are voiceless and faceless because they are at home,” said Lupe Solis, AARP Arizona’s associate director for advocacy.

“These cuts are denying these people the dignity they’ve earned by working hard their whole lives,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson.

As it closed a $1.6-billion deficit for the fiscal year ending in June, lawmakers cut $2 million from a program providing independent-living support for elderly and vulnerable adults through the Department of Economic Security’s Division of Aging and Adult Services. About 450 people over age 60 lost their services as a result, according to the DES Web site.

In all, more than 17,000 people statewide receive in-home care through the program, which had an appropriation of about $19 million before the cuts.

“These budget program eliminations and reductions are horrendous,” said Guy Mikkelsen, president and CEO of the Foundation for Senior Living.

“The impact of the cuts is that frail elderly people are abandoned when they need us the most,” said Timothy Schmaltz, coordinator and CEO of Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, an alliance of social service associations.

Solis, with AARP, said keeping seniors in their homes makes economic sense. She said the in-home care costs an average of $2,000 annually per person, while the Arizona Long Term Care System averages about $24,000 per person.

“People who are not receiving care deteriorate at home by themselves and end up in more costly care,” Solis said.

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