Lawmakers vow to restore in-home care

Funding for Oregon Project Independence and other "vital" in-home care programs for senior, children and adults with disabilities will be restored this week, politicians promised following a Monday meeting of the Legislature's Emergency Board.

The bipartisan members of the board agreed to vote Thursday to restore full funding for a year to Medicaid Personal Care, a state program that provides in-home care for low-income seniors and those of all ages with disabilities, said Rep. Peter Buckley, an Ashland Democrat.

They agreed Oregon Project Independence will be funded at least through March 1 to allow more time for possible federal action on human services funding or the identification of other state resources to put toward the program, said Buckley.

The programs, serving more than 10,000 Oregonians statewide, had been part of 9 percent across-the-board cuts ordered by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in response to falling state revenues.

Project Independence home-care services to 150 Josephine and Jackson county residents were terminated on July 15. Thirty-day notices were sent to 110 residents enrolled in Medicaid Personal Care, said Don Bruland, director of Senior and Disability Services for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

Bruland said he is cautiously optimistic about the restoration of the Project Independence and Medicaid funding, at least for the immediate future.

"They put back half of what they cut from OPI," Bruland said. "Hopefully they will figure out how to restore it fully."

Buckley is one of three Southern Oregon legislators on the committee along with Sen. Alan Bates (D-Ashland), and Rep. Bill Garrard (R-Klamath Falls).

"Oregon's priorities are clear — we're going to do everything we can to take care of our most vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors," Bates said in a press release. "We are struggling to address the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, and we have a long way to go. By taking these actions now, we give Oregon the best possible chance to survive this crisis intact."

Buckley said the governor's office and the Department of Human Services also agreed to remove proposed cuts to the Medicaid Meals on Wheels program as well as proposed cuts to nursing homes and assisted living facilities from the list of reductions to go into effect.

Bruland said if the emergency funding measures pass, it will give the Legislature time to move funding around or look for matching federal funds for the at-risk programs.

"But they still have some tough decisions ahead unless the economy really comes back quickly," Bruland said. "We have a lot of work to do between now and February."

Additional cuts to DHS administration, along with use of a portion of a special appropriations reserve fund that the Legislature put in place for the Emergency Board, will bring the overall DHS budget to the full 9 percent cut required by the governor's order.

"We are still cutting over $140 million from programs that assist seniors and others. The cuts we are making in many areas remain very painful, and we are not out of the woods by any means," Buckley said. "But we absolutely cannot afford to cut the programs that work to provide vital care to those who need it most."

The Emergency Board meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday at the state capitol.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

Share This Story