In reaction to the release of Gov. Deval Patrick’s Fiscal Year 2015 state budget proposal, Michael E. Festa, state director of AARP Massachusetts — which serves more than 800,000 residents age 50 and older in the Commonwealth — issued the following statement today:
“AARP commends Gov. Patrick for increasing funding for several key provisions that are central to the health, safety, and financial security of the state’s aging population.
“In particular, we applaud the Governor’s recommended increase to fund these critical programs, such as Enhanced Home Care Services, Supportive Senior Housing Program, and Elder Home Care Purchased Services.
“We laud the Governor’s recommendation for new funding for home care workers’ training. The care provided in long-term services and supports (LTSS) settings is only as good as the personnel who provide it. Yet workforce challenges, including how to best ensure the skills needed to provide high-quality care, abound in the LTSS industry. We must take steps now to address the growing need for high-quality care.
“The vast majority of seniors want to remain in their homes and communities as they age. Yet, long term services and supports in the Commonwealth have historically been weighted disproportionately toward institutional care, leaving home care under-funded, seniors under-served, and caregivers over-stressed. For Fiscal Year 2015, part of this disparity has been recognized with a substantial increase toward supportive senior housing.
“Indeed, we know that rebalancing and strengthening long term care — which includes high quality, affordable skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, adult day health services, senior housing, and home and community based services — for today’s seniors and those who will need these services in the next decades, should be a priority for all of us. After all, with the aging of the population, we now face a demographic imperative: By 2030, the 65-plus population will grow to more than 20 percent in Massachusetts — an estimated 1.5 million residents.
“The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget proposal also continues the commitment that all people, especially low-income and the most vulnerable have access to affordable health care by funding implementation of the health care reform law. This will provide all consumers with access to affordable health insurance options.
“The Massachusetts population of 50+ residents will continue to grow along with this older segment’s unique health, long term services and supports, housing, and transportation needs. As the Governor has demonstrated in his Fiscal Year 2015 state budget, it is critical for the Commonwealth to provide such supports for this older population, to help keep people healthy, independent, and living with dignity.
“We urge the Legislature to adopt this increased funding to address seniors’ continuing needs, and increased needs for those 50+, in the state.
“We will continue to review closely the Governor’s budget, and will make further recommendations regarding the programs and services that seniors count on — including long term home and community-based care, housing, and health care — as the budget moves to the House and then the Senate.”