Last week, dozens of area residents who attend Coltrane L.I.F.E. Center in Concord wrote letters to Gov. Bev Perdue asking her to not cut funding for adult day care services.
A proposal in Perdue's budget could cut $1.1 million from the State Adult Day Care Fund. More than 60 percent of Coltrane's 85 weekly participants use the fund and other government programs for financial assistance.
If cuts to government funding sources are approved, more than half of the center's participants could be forced out of the only program of its kind in Cabarrus County because they'll be unable to pay, said Susan Caudle, the center's executive director. Participant care would instead be paid for through Home and Community Care Block Grants, money counties can use for services such as Meals on Wheels, adult day care and in-home care.
Republican legislative leaders have not released their proposed cuts, but they have pushed for even deeper cuts in the overall budget and are expected to present them later this month.
"Contact our legislature and let them know the value of this," said Caudle. "Call the governor's office, call our local representatives and senators, and let them know. To get eleven hours of care for about fifty dollars a day is unbelievable compared to in-home care, assisted living and nursing homes. And it's what people want. People want to be able to stay at home and have something to do during the day rather than being placed in a nursing home."
Mark Johnson, a spokesperson for the governor, said the state is facing a $2.4 billion budget hole that has to be filled in all areas of state government. Of that, programming under the Division of Aging and Adult Services received a 1.5 percent cut. Perdue proposed a four percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes adult services, while Republican leaders called for a 12 percent cut, said Johnson. The state budget, which would include any cuts from adult services and other areas, is not expected to be passed until the end of June.
"The governor's commitment to seniors hasn't diminished in the slightest," said Johnson. "She has a long history of creating and championing initiatives that benefit senior citizens. The is a horribly difficult budget year and while some agencies have taken fairly deep cuts, the governor ensured programs to seniors received only about a 1.5 percent cut - among the smallest in her budget.
"This proposal gives counties the flexibility to put money where it's most needed," said Johnson. "If the need for adult day services is greater in one county than it is in others, then that county has the ability to shift that money and to contribute their own local funding."
Established in 1974, Coltrane helps older and disabled adults live at home rather than a nursing home. It serves residents of Concord, Harrisburg and surrounding cities and counties by providing daytime health care services and recreational and social activities in a homelike setting 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
The private, nonprofit organization also provides transportation, meals, health monitoring, medication administration and assistance with personal care needs, freeing up time for family caregivers.
According to a 2010 study by the MetLife Foundation, the number of adult day care centers nationally has increased by 35 percent during an eight-year period. If the cuts are approved, Caudle said Coltrane would likely cut services and staff.
"But, more importantly, is what the cuts would do to our participants," she said. "They probably would end up in a nursing home, which is going to cost taxpayers even more money. I think it's going to affect the general public and our community locally and statewide because it's going to affect taxpayers."
The average annual cost for adult day care services is about $25,000, according to the Nation Adult Day Services Association, while assisted living and home care range from about $30,000-$40,000 and nursing home care is more than $75,000.
In the last five years, Coltrane has cut 10 positions and Caudle estimates the program has lost 125 participants. The center also has decreased its transportation services and is considering eliminating them altogether because of funding issues.
Shirley Carter, 84, is a Concord native who attends Coltrane five days per week and uses government funding to pay for services.
"It's helped me," she said about her anxiety and depression. "I'm not as nervous, I'm with people and that helps. We'll miss it and we hope it doesn't close. We can bring our problems here and they'll help us."
Nancy Marlow, 46, from Concord attends four days per week and receives government funding.
"If I couldn't come to the L.I.F.E. Center, I would be at home alone all day and be bored," she said. "I enjoy coming (here) to have people to talk to and to help people."
Elizabeth Willis, 70, from Midland attends five days per week and receives government funding.
"I need the L.I.F.E. Center so bad," she said. "We are all family here and this is my home away from home. It's no fun being at home alone. All I can do is sleep or watch TV. The L.I.F.E. Center gives me a reason to live and I love it here."