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Lawmakers Consider Bills to Help People Stay In Their Homes

Loretta Humphrey is perhaps one of the strongest advocates for in-home care you could find in Wyoming. When Humphrey’s sister came to her needing help and care, she was expected to live only a couple of months – she had suffered a stroke and had other long-term health problems such as diabetes.

See Also: Alternative Housing Options for Long-Term Care

“She was able to live for nine more years,” Humphrey said recently, and that was thanks to in-home care that she received in Cheyenne.

For nearly a decade, the in-home services Humphrey’s sister received – help with shopping, banking, household chores, supervision in taking needed medications, transportation and support – allowed her to live independently and with a better quality of life than she had had before. When Humphrey totaled up the costs of all of those services, she estimated her sister received the help she needed at about a third the cost of being in a nursing home at that time.

For Humphrey and others like her, it boils down to this: Most people can achieve the highest quality of life when they are in their own homes for the longest possible time.

“I would want that for my loved ones,” Humphrey said. “I would want that for complete strangers.”

The Community-Based In-Home Services program provides help at home for the elderly, who might otherwise go to a nursing home or be left without help. The service is based on a client’s ability to pay and is fully funded by the state of Wyoming. It’s widely considered to be the most cost-effective and efficient home- and community-based service option in Wyoming; both nursing home and Medicaid programs have higher costs.

Being able to continue delivery of that kind of help is the impetus behind a budget proposal that state Sen. Marty Martin plans to bring in the upcoming legislative session. The Community-Based In-Home Service Program currently has a waiting list of about 200 people. To help whittle that down, the Sweetwater County senator said he’ll bring a funding request of $800,000 for the next two years.

“This is the cheapest state program,” he said. The state of Wyoming spends $1,900 for every person helped by this program. “One thing that benefits us in getting support (for the bill) is that it saves Medicaid dollars, and you get the most bang for your buck with this program.”

Caregivers and others in the state also are watching what will happen with a funding request for the Aging and Disability Resource Centers program. Launched in Wyoming two years ago with a three-year federal grant, it was supplemented last year by $200,000 one-time funds from the state of Wyoming.

The program offers a single-stop service that provides a free and unbiased service for Wyoming residents seeking to help those who are aging or have disabilities find answers on locating resources in Wyoming.

Staffers help people learn about what federal programs they may be eligible for such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance and what services may be available under private insurance policies. Center staff will also help clients complete applications if those are required. Other services include short-term case management and options counseling for those approaching retirement and looking for information to help them make decisions about the best options available to them.

The service is offered via toll-free phone assistance supplemented by a website. The state’s one-time funding of $200,000 is being used to hire staff who can offer face-to-face assistance to clients who need more help.

Debbie Walter, state ADRC coordinator, said the program has counted 1,611 total contacts from 371 callers.

Martin, who has worked for ADRC funding, said Gov. Mead’s budget contains a request for $200,000 in one-time state funding. The governor limited his recommendation, as he did with several other programs, especially new ones. “I think he wants better numbers on how these programs are saving the state money,” Martin said, and it’s a part of the due diligence he’s doing.
    
These and other funding proposals will be debated in the upcoming legislative budget session that will set spending priorities for the next two years starting July 1.

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