Gov Brown Signs CA Budget – What does this mean for Alzheimer’s services?
Have you noticed that so many times during the day, something makes you think of Alzheimer’s? It happens to me, too, and three occasions immediately come to mind.
Driving a few days ago and listening to the radio, NPR alerted me to a story I wanted to hear. With only a few minutes to my destination, I hurried home, raced up the stairs and tuned in before even saying hello to everyone. My house was a madhouse so I couldn’t focus as intently as I wanted, but the story was about innovative research on families in Colombia beset with early onset Alzheimer’s. This research is risky as the subjects will be completely healthy individuals, rather than those already with dementia symptoms, and at least one of the studies has been done only on animals. Potential human side effects are unknown and it can be a frightening situation. Yet, you know as well as I do that desperate families often have the courage to try anything. We thank them for saying “Yes, I want to participate.” This same story was highlighted in a series by the New York Times a year ago; it’s taken all this time to obtain the necessary research funding and sign up participants. We’ll definitely keep an eye on this exciting study.
The second thing that made me think about Alzheimer’s was hearing another radio commentary while driving (and no, I’m not really in the car all the time!). This time, a gerontologist gave an upbeat talk about the well-being and health of many of his elderly patients. His belief is that the chance of getting a disease actually lessens with age; this was a pretty interesting hypothesis, but it was disappointing that he omitted any discussion of Alzheimer’s and the fact that increasing age is a potent risk factor. He seemed to be saying that if you’re healthy at age 80, you have a good chance of being healthy at 85 or 90, but we know that a clear memory and substantial cognitive ability at age 80 does not necessarily translate into the same situation five years down the road. To me, this was a real missed opportunity to educate his listeners.
I bring up these things because (as I’ve said before), Alzheimer’s-related topics are everywhere. These stories also point to two major objectives for Alzheimer’s advocates – research and public awareness. By linking what we read and hear, we can connect the dots and find a way to keep the story alive.
The third thing that made me think of Alzheimer’s refers to the devastating situation for Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) Centers. You know that California’s budget eliminates ADHC, thereby clearing $169 Million off the books. At the same time, the Senate and Assembly approved AB96, a new smaller program funded at $85 Million, called KAFI (Keeping Adults Free From Institutions). A watchful eye has been kept on the Governor to see what his action would be and here’s what happened.
Just yesterday, Governor Brown signed the fiscal year 2011-12 budget. Although the very good news is that the budget retains the $85 million in state funding approved by the budget conference committee in March, the Governor deleted the budget language that directed the use of the funds. What this means is that the General Fund augmentation is sustained, to be used by the Department of Health Care Services to transition current ADHC beneficiaries to other appropriate services. Although this may include seeking federal waiver services and developing alternative funding arrangements to preserve services at existing centers, the Governor insists that the provision of any additional ongoing services after the transition must consider other existing home and community based services, and that the state take a coordinated and integrated approach to providing services that reduce Medi-Cal beneficiaries’ risk of institutionalization. Based on this, it is felt that the Governor is probably not inclined to sign AB 96 (KAFI). So, now, we’re faced with uncertainty regarding conversion to a waiver, making the need for legislation authorizing a waiver (AB96) even more urgent.
In the meantime, we know that so many of you called and wrote to the Legislature and the Governor advocating for ADHC funding and it’s clear your voice was heard. Thank you! But, there’s much more to be done. Stay tuned.