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Ask legislators to support LSS’s 5 Percent Campaign

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As legislators prepare for the 2014 legislative session, my hope is that the 5% Campaign will be among their top priorities.

Last fall, over 100 disability and senior community organizations, including ours, came together to launch the 5% Campaign to increase support to older adults and people with disabilities who receive community-based services. These services are crucial to helping people maintain good health and remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

With the 5% Campaign, an estimated $83 million would provide a 5% rate increase for home and community based services that support roughly 92,500 older adults and people with disabilities.

What does community-based care look like? People with disabilities may need help getting up in the morning, being dressed and ready for the day. Older adults may need assistance preparing meals, taking medications or driving to health appointments. All of this care can be accomplished in the homes of individuals at far less cost than institutional settings.

It’s care that makes economic sense. Here’s just one example: An entire year of meals for older adults through our Senior Nutrition service equals the cost of one week of care in a nursing home.

Equally important, home and community-based care improves people’s lives, making it possible for many older adults and people with disabilities to maintain independence, hold down jobs that add to our tax base, stay in their homes where they want to be and enjoy a much higher quality of life.

Minnesota has long been a leader in forging new and better ways to support our neighbors, including shifting care from medical models to care in the community. The problem is, revenue support for home and community-based care has not kept pace over the last decade.

This lag in support is a more immediate concern when you consider that our rapidly aging population will have increasing care needs in the very near future. We need to invest in community-based solutions and reforms now that will help us meet new realities ahead.  

We also know that the 5% Campaign would increase pay for 90,800 essential care workers that support older adults and people with disabilities. Between 2003 and 2012 provider rates that pay for wages increased only 3.4 percent while inflation rose 24.5 percent.

In our organization, we are committed to wages that help people stay rooted in their communities and contribute to their local economies.  Wages are an important factor in avoiding turnover and maintaining quality care, something that is critical to remaining in the community for people with disabilities and older adults.

The financial forecast released recently projects a $1.086 billion state budget surplus in 2014, with an anticipated $825 million left over after previous financial commitments are met. This is a good time to evaluate our priorities as a state and make smart, informed decisions. Advancing home and community-based care ought to be among them. 

The good news is that the 5% Campaign has widespread, bipartisan support. To date, 100 legislators are committed to be co-authors for this legislation. In coming weeks, I encourage Minnesotans to contact their local legislators and ask them to support the 5% Campaign. Let’s advance this important initiative together. — Jodi Harpstead, CEO, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

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