EMERGENCY BOARD RESTORES PERSONAL CARE SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS
At 10:30 this morning, the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board voted to restore funding for several critically-needed services for seniors and people with disabilities. Among these is the monthly provision of 20 hours of in-home care services to people with mental illness. These services enable individuals to move into or remain in their own home, and to support and augment independence, empowerment, dignity and human potential. Personal care attendants (PCAs) help with housekeeping, keeping appointments, getting out into the community, monitoring medications and mental condition, and companionship.
Cutting these services would have affected approximately 800 people with serious mental illness. Without these services, many of recipients would no longer be able to maintain their housing and would become homeless. Alone, they would be at severe risk of missing prescribed medications, decompensating and winding up in the emergency room or a psychiatric hospital such as Oregon State Hospital. There are no other Medicaid services to replace the personal care services for people with mental health in the community.
LM, a 45 year old woman with schizoaffective bipolar disorder and traumatic brain injury who receives mental health services through Central City Concern, is one of the people who were going to be affected by the cuts. Her personal care attendant, Jamie, monitors her mental health and calls her case manager if she’s not doing well. In the past, when LM has stopped taking medications, she has become psychotic within the 24 hours and ended up hospitalized. She hasn’t stopped taking her medications since she’s had her PCA.
When told of the Emergency Board’s actions, she said,
“Jamie fills the gap that is a void from my mother’s passing. Without Jamie’s assistance, I don’t think I’d be able to stay in the community. Jamie’s really good at getting me out of the house, taking me to my appointments, getting my medications and keeping me stable. Without this service, I would lose my housing, because I can’t keep my house up, and become homeless. I am really grateful for Jamie.”
Another service recipient, DA in Dallas, Oregon, explains that without her PCA, she’d probably stop taking her medications and would wind up in the hospital. She experiences auditory hallucinations that tell her to hurt herself, and has been hospitalized before as a result.
ZS of Cottage Grove had made five suicide attempts before getting a PCA. Her PCA not only counts out her medications and assesses when she can take more to control her anxiety, but also takes her shopping. They’ve gotten to be good friends and she relies on her for support.
According to Sarah Goforth, Director of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Services for Central City Concern, “In my experience, the PC-20 program helps prevent costly and unnecessary institutionalization, saving the state money and improving the qualify of life for the clients we serve.”
Disability Rights Oregon applauds the actions today of the Legislative Emergency Board to save these critical services.