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Gov.’s budget features big hikes for elders

Gov. Deval Patrick would like to see the state spend more on programs that help poor elders stay in their own households instead of turning to nursing homes.

His budget proposal boosts funding for home care programs by $15.79 million, a 10.4 percent increase from last year. The House and Senate will unveil their own budget proposals in the months to come.

“This is a very smart investment,” said Al Norman, the executive director of Mass. Home Care, a nonprofit elders advocacy agency, who added that it’s the biggest increases he’s seen from Patrick in his eight years as governor.

“Every day an elder is kept at home, and out of a nursing facility, is a good day for the elder and the state and federal taxpayers, said Norman. Home care will save the state an estimated $1.2 billion in nursing facility costs over the next six years, he said.

Roseann Martoccia, executive director of Franklin County Home Care Corp., said that the increases would allow her organization to help more elders and do more for them in their homes and communities.

Elder services covered by the state’s public health insurance program MassHealth — which benefited from a nearly $100 million increase last year — would see a $325.8 million spike this year (11.4 percent increase) under Patrick’s budget proposal.

Patrick allocated a $1.3 million increase (31.3 percent) to a housing program for seniors, which has 31 sites across the state including Elm Terrace in Greenfield. The program pays for care workers to routinely visit a site for a block of time, providing various services to elders there. The increase would allow for 10 additional sites across Massachusetts to benefit from this program.

Protective services would see a $677,000 increase (3.1 percent). And a one-time line item of $1.2 million would be used to train protective service investigators, care managers and personal care/home care aids.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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