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California Progress Report

June 15, 2010

Home Care Advocates Continue Fight Against Budget Cuts in Federal Appeals Court

By Thu Phan

Yesterday as the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard a case that is critical to our ability to live independently, I joined dozens of other people with disabilities, low-income seniors, and our caregivers to keep up the fight for safe, quality home care. 

We gathered on the steps of San Franciscoís James R. Browning court house to show California leaders and community members what Californiaís In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program means to us. 

Funding cost-effective home care means we can get the help we need to bathe, dress, cook and get to medical appointments. Home care is critical to maintaining our quality of life. 

Home care allows me to go to work every day, be independent, and make a contribution to society. For others, it means the ability to go to school, or to live with our families rather than in a nursing home. 

For the State and its taxpayers, home care means not only providing compassionate, quality services for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, but also doing so cost-effectively.  If home care cuts continue, the state will face a much steeper bill when many people with disabilities are forced out of our homes and into institutions that could cost five times more. 

Thatís why itís so critical that we prevail in this court case, Oster v. Wagner, and halt home care cuts that have been proposed by the State of California for the coming year. 

Todayís hearing comes after the State of California appealed federal circuit court Judge Claudia Wilkenís order that home care services for 120,000 Californians not be reduced or eliminated and another ruling that the State was in contempt of court after 6,000 home care workers were told they were not authorized to work or to work only reduced hours.

The Courts had it right the first time: home care cuts are illegal, immoral, and illogical. The sooner we win this case and stop more cuts to home care, the sooner we can move forward with rebuilding California for all of us.

One of 100 seniors and people with disabilities who came to todayís demonstration was Michelle Rousey, who lives with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bone disease requires an oxygen tank to breathe and a wheelchair to be mobile.  Without her caregiver, Maria Sanchez, Rousey says she would be confined to a nursing home or a hospital.  

On the day of the Legislatureís deadline to pass a budget for the coming year, Michelle joined our call for California leaders to consider the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of home care recipients like her and the long term consequences for the state. Without caregivers, many of us who rely on home care could end up in a hospital or nursing home where the quality of care is poor. Many of us worry that eliminating our home care will be a sentence. 

Not only do home care cuts put seniors and people with disabilities at grave risk, but they also come at too steep of a price for California. Cuts to the In Home Supportive Services program will cost taxpayers far more in the long run as people who now live independently with cost-effective, quality home care could be forced into nursing homes, or suffer needlessly since nursing home capacity is already near the critical limit. 

Cutting the 350,000 jobs of Californians who work in the program would also be a step backward in our efforts to rebuild California for the next generation. California must stop attacking the IHSS program because it does save the state money and for every dollar cut, we are losing federal funding. 

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Thu Phan is an IHSS consumer from San Francisco.