Rhode Island Campaign for Home Care Independence and Choice launched today

Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Campaign for Home Care Independence and Choice, an effort to provide seniors and individuals living with physical disabilities more options when determining their long term care setting was launched at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday. The new campaign, supported by senior advocates, legislators, home care workers, and allies, announced its support of passing legislation in 2018 which would create an Independent Provider (IP) option, a successful home care model in several other states including Massachusetts.

“Right now, in Rhode Island, 90 percent of elders and people living with disabilities want to be cared for in their homes,” said Georgia Hollister-Isman, state director of the Rhode Island Working Families Party emceed the event. “And that makes perfect sense. I think if most of us thought about it that’s what we would want as well.”

The coalition has come together around three simple principles said Hollister-Isman.

Choice and autonomy: People who need services should be able to direct their care and choose who provides it.

Accessibility and accountability: It should be easy to find home care options and they should actually be available when you need them.

Quality and consistent care: If we want a stable workforce of people willing to do this hard work, we need to train them well and pay them a living wage.

“We know that nearly all seniors, even those living with chronic illnesses or disabilities, have a strong desire to age in their own homes,” said Bill Flynn, executive director of Senior Agenda Coalition. “Creating an Independent Provider program in Rhode Island will provide a new and proven option for seniors needing home care. It will give seniors the power to hire their own caregivers, and we believe it will improve quality of their care because they will have control of the quality of their own care.”

Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence) is the Senate sponsor of S2734, which would “enable the creation of a public registry of home health aides giving seniors and individuals living with disabilities another choice when accessing long-term care options. The act would also provide that the state would set wage rates and qualification standards for home health aides on the registry. The act would further provide that these home health aides would have the right to choose to form a union through an election.”

“Presently,” said Goodwin, “Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation in terms of investment in home care. 90 percent of older Americans prefer home care. Not only is it more comfortable for seniors, it’s more cost-effective, as we’ve seen in states like Massachusetts. High-quality home care is what people want, and it saves money. We’re proud to support this effort to help make excellent home care available to more Rhode Islanders.”

Massachusetts has estimated savings of one billion dollars under an IP system.

Representative Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, East Providence, Providence) is  sponsor of H7803, the House version of the legislation.

“There is little question that people prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible,” said Blazejewski. “Particularly now, as the over-65 population in our state is rapidly expanding, Rhode Island must shift more of our long-term care resources toward supporting home care. Our legislation will help provide more options for home-based services, enhance access to them, and establish standards that assure high-quality care.”

David Oppenheimer, a North Kingstown resident, struggled to find consistent reliable help for his father through the existing home care network.

“As I get older, long term care is something I am thinking about again,” said Oppenheimer. “My wife and I hope to live in our home for a very long time. Having a home care system that is prepared to meet the needs of my generation is extremely important to me.”

Satta Jangaba is a caregiver from Providence.

“I worked with my home care client for years and we became like family,” said Jangaba. “I moved on to a nursing home so I can make a better living, but I worry all the time about my client. Now that I’m not there, she has been passed around to several different CNAs [Certified Nursing Assistant] – the agency constantly changes their schedules and my client is left without any care. I wish I could go back to being her provider, but there’s no way I could afford to live on the $10.50 an hour they paid.”

Victoria Talue has been a CNA for 19 years. For the past ten years she has been working in home care. Both patients and providers value consistency in their relationship, said Talue, and the IP program will allow that.

The Rhode Island Organizing Project‘s Ray Gagne said that his group is in enthusiastic support of this idea.

“We’ve been doing outreach for seven years,” said Gagne. “We’ve probably talked to well over a thousand people. And all of the people we’ve talked to have a burning desire to stay in their homes.”

The Rhode Island Campaign for Independence and Choice is comprised of the following organizations: Senior Agenda Consortium, Rhode Island Working Families Party, Rhode Island Organizing Project, District 1199 SEIU New England, Rhode Island AFL-CIO, Economic Progress Institute and the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization of Women (RI NOW).

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