Seniors, people with disabilities and home care attendants call on Governor to create Consumer Workforce Council
Over 200 people with disabilities, seniors, and home care attendants marched and rallied alongside legislative leaders at the State Capitol for access to reliable homecare (HARRISBURG, PA)
In an effort to make reliable home care an option for more Pennsylvanians, hundreds of people with disabilities, seniors, and home care attendants gathered in Harrisburg today, April 1st, at 1:30pm, at the back of the Pennsylvania Capitol, for a rally and lobby day asking Governor Rendell to build the Consumer Workforce Council.
Leaders in the disability rights and senior movements joined legislative leaders such as PA House of Representatives Majority Secretary Representative Jenn Mann, the Vice-Secretary of the PA House of Representatives Labor Relations Committee Representative Marc Gergely, and others to speak out about the need for the Council - a board of home care consumers who would expand and protect home care through developing cost-effective solutions to bring home care attendants access to better wages and health care benefits.
"The elderly and people with disabilities who need long-term care support want that support in their own home instead of segregated, expensive and undesirable nursing homes. To accomplish this, they need a reliable and retainable workforce" says Thomas Earle, CEO of Liberty Resources, Inc., a Center for Independent Living which serves thousands of people with disabilities across Eastern Pennsylvania. "For over 20 years, our Commonwealth has provided home care attendants with poor wages and no benefits. Our workers do not get a fair deal, and now it’s time for us - people with disabilities, seniors and home care workers - to lead the planning and funding decisions around our long term care system." Over 92% of Pennsylvania’s seniors and people with disabilities want to stay at home for the long term care support they may need. But, with approximately 80 cents of every long term care dollar spent on institutional rather than home care, and without a retainable and reliable home care workforce, thousands must rely on nursing homes as their only choice.
A committee of long term care stakeholders, convened by the Rendell administration in the Summer of 2008, designed the proposed Consumer Workforce Council. The Council would create a voluntary registry to help match seniors and people with disabilities to qualified home care attendants and will protect home care consumers' rights to fully manage their own long term care. It will also help with finding backup workers when regular attendants are unavailable. Advocates note that during this tough budget time, the Council would save significant taxpayer dollars by helping taxpayers avoid high cost institutional models of long term care in exchange for lower cost home based settings; especially important given the expanding need for these services caused by our aging population.
"I don't want to lose my independence. But my needs are varied, and I really need help with everything I do," said home care consumer and senior Joseph Pepe of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, who travelled with his caregiver Brenda McFadden to speak at the event. "Without Brenda, I'd be in a nursing home. That"s why I support the Consumer Workforce Council."
A number of counties have already expressed support for the Consumer Workforce Council to Governor Rendell's administration. They join a growing number of experts and legislators who are asking the Administration to establish the Consumer Workforce Council now. They note that many other states across the country have created similar Councils which have succeeded in reducing home care worker turnover, increasing consumer satisfaction, and expanding access to home care for thousands of consumers and their families.
"When my brother had a life-changing accident, I gave up my job to help him stay at home," said Steven Walls, who works as a home care attendant in Lawrence, Pennsylvania. "Now he gets the care he needs, but I earn low wages and don’t have any health insurance. After months of pain, I went to the hospital to treat my chronic health condition. But while I was there, John had no backup and nearly wound up in a nursing home. That’s why I support the Consumer Workforce Council."
Pennsylvania's Consumer Workforce Council is supported by AARP of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania ADAPT, American Veterans (AM Vets), PA Alliance for Retired Americans, Action Alliance of Senior Citizens, Center for Independent Living of Central PA, Freedom Valley Disability Enablement Incorporated, Disabled in Action Pennsylvania, Center for Independent Living of North Central PA, Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living, Voices for Independence, 1199C NUHHCE, AFSCME/AFL-CIO, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, PHI, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Life and Independence for Today, Disability Options Network, Liberty Resources for Independence, and others.
"We're counting on Governor Rendell to put the Consumer Workforce Council in place", said Ray Myers, Executive Vice President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans. "By 2020, over 20 percent of Pennsylvanians will be over 65. If we are going to be able to afford to support all of them, we need to improve home care now, by moving forward with the Consumer Workforce Council."
Learn more about the Consumer Workforce Council at 866-598-4311 or at choosehomecare.org.