Monday, October 19, 2009

Judge Overturns Cuts to Housing for Seniors and People with Disabilities in California


In a victory for disability advocates in California and nationwide, a federal judge today stopped California's plan to cut or reduce caregiver services for 130,000 disabled and low-income seniors. The $82.1 million cuts to the In-Home Supportive Services program were due to go into effect Nov. 1, which one disability advocate said would have caused a "humanitarian disaster."

Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland imposed a preliminary injunction against the plan and is expected to provide more guidance soon. Her action today completely freezes the plan to cut services pending further hearings on arguments against the state's method for selecting who will and will not receive services.

Melinda Bird of Disability Rights California said: "We are convinced a humanitarian disaster would have resulted from the precipitous and arbitrary withdrawal of essential services approved by the legislature and the administration in the budget, and are delighted that the Court agreed with us."

The IHSS program pays in-home caregivers for seniors and people with disabilities through a combination of federal, state, and county money, with some contributions from recipients. Advocates argued that the state's use of a "functional index" score to determine who woul have their care reduced or eliminated was arbitrary and unfair. For example, people could get a good score if they can dress and feed themselves, but if they have memory problems or other mental conditions, caregiver support is critical. And obviously, providing these part-time services in the person's home is a lot less expensive than the alternative of institutionalization.

Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

To keep up with the proposed cuts in California, sign up for alerts from the California Disability Community Action Network at www.cdcan.us. You can see on their website just how hard they have been working -- and today's ruling demonstrates that grassroots advocacy works. For disability advocates, there are many more budget battles ahead, and not just in California.
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