As Senate and House leaders negotiate a final budget package, more than 15,000 older North Carolinians remain on waiting lists for help such as Meals on Wheels, adult day care and in-home assistance, state human services officials said.
The number will rise to 17,000 without an increase in the $31.7 million state allocation for Home and Community Care Block Grants, according to a new survey of social services providers across the state.
The Senate has proposed no increase and the House, $500,000. Gov. Bev Perdues budget included an additional $2 million.
Efforts to reach Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican and key budget negotiator, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
They are services designed to allow older adults to remain as independent as possible as long as possible, said Joan Pellettier, executive director for the Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, which oversees the grants in a seven-county area.
These are older individuals with significant intensive needs, many of whom would be eligible for assisted living or nursing-home care, Pellettier said. We believe that these services reduce cost and the use of more expensive long-term care.
Talks on the state budget for 2012-2013 are likely in their last days. This week, the state Department of Health and Human Services released statistics on the need for block grant services. The survey projected 2,000 more people will join waiting lists if budget talks produce no additional funding.
AARP officials have said need for the services actually far exceeds the waiting lists which have increased 14 percent in the past two years because many agencies that provide the help have stopped keeping wait lists. They dont want to build up hope among potential clients who may never get the help, AARP lobbyist Mary Bethel told a Senate budget hearing Thursday.
As North Carolina continues to gray, more and more of our elderly neighbors need help with basic housekeeping and food, DHHS Secretary Al Delia said in a statement. Many who receive these services are homebound and alone, and often the service provider who visits is the only real human contact they receive in a day.
For about half the people served by Meals on Wheels, the nutrition they receive makes up about half their daily intake, even though its only designed to represent a third of their daily need, the state survey showed.
About 58 percent of recipients are 75 or older and more than seven in 10 are women.
These are critical services and in many cases, they keep them out of institutions, which is where older people do not want to wind up, said David Cottengim, president of Resources for Seniors, which oversees the grants in Wake County.