The Generations Project was established in 2001 to call attention to the dilemma facing Hoosiers with long term health care needs. A collaborative effort of leading consumer based organizations, The Project seeks to educate citizens, advocates, and policy makers about the opportunities for Hoosiers to implement a balanced and responsible long term care system.
Report on the 2015 Indiana General Assembly
By TGP Staff and Board Members
Indiana’s 2015 legislative session ended at midnight on April 29, ending a four month up and down ride that repeatedly veered between damaging controversy and honest compromise in the best interests of Hoosiers.
While the session will be long remembered for the world-wide condemnation that was prompted by Governor Mike Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in late March that was just one of the many divisive issues that were muscled through the State House. Lawmakers also ended the state’s common construction wage; enacted a moratorium on the construction of new nursing homes; reduced the power of the Superintendent of Public Instruction; and banned the use of RFRA as a tool for discrimination. The Generations Project and the Indiana Home Care Task Force (IHCTF) supported the nursing home moratorium legislation.
The $474 million in new elementary and high school funding pushes total K -12 state education spending to $16 billion, or 52 percent of Indiana $31billion two year state budget. The new budget period will begin on July 1, 2015. Most of the increase in education funding will go to growing suburban school districts as a result of changes to the school funding formula. Lawmakers also shortened the state take over timeline for failing schools to four years instead of six, while also permitting friendly takeovers of public schools by charter school operations.
The legislature settled on $80 million in new funding to help local governments deal with an influx of low-level offenders no longer going to the Indiana Department of Corrections. This money can be used for addiction and mental health treatment, probation services, in-home electronic monitoring and other local programs.
Full Funding for the CHOICE program, changes in the CHOICE board
Of particular interests to IHCTF members and supporters of The Generations Project, the General Assembly appropriated level funding for the CHOICE home care program. That amount totaled $48,765,643 per year and equaled the full funding level that had been advocated by the IHCTF and its individual and organizational members. The CHOICE appropriation was considered a major victory for senior citizens and persons with disabilities that need home and community based services. Of the dollars appropriated for CHOICE, up to $18 million per year can be used as the state’s share for the Medicaid aged and disabled (A&D) program waiver. The bulk of the dollars used for Medicaid A&D waiver services come from the federal government. The waiver funds in-home services that are similar to those provided through the CHOICE program.
The General Assembly took a series of actions that affect home and community based services in Indiana. The legislature passed the designation of caregiver for patients program. The legislature allowed a percentage of the spinal cord and brain injury fund to be used to provide funding for facilities, treatment, and services for spinal cord and brain injuries.
Unfortunately, the legislature also passed changes to the CHOICE board that eliminate specific age requirements for CHOICE board members and provided for staggered four year terms for board members. These changes in the CHOICE statute were authored by State Representative Ed Clere and create the possibility of people being appointed to the CHOICE board to represent seniors who are not seniors themselves. These changes to the CHOICE board were made at the last minute during the legislative process. Once they were discovered they were opposed by the IHCTF and The Generations Project.
Finally, the General Assembly also appropriated dollars to fund independent living services including seven local centers for independent living.
Raise the Wage for Home Care Workers
The Generations Project is working with the Indiana Raise the Wage Coalition to enhance the public’s understanding of increasing the minimum wage, and all low wages and benefits among workers in Indiana.
John Cardwell and Nancy Griffin, members of the TGP governing board, have recently represented the project at Raise the Wage Coalition meetings.
Why is The Generations Project involved with the Raise the Wage Coalition?
Nancy Griffin has a quick and direct answer: “Raising wages and benefits for low income workers is critical to the health and wellbeing of people needing home and community based services. The turn-over among home care workers is very high and constant. That turn-over is a direct threat to the lives of people who depend on home care workers who are knowledgeable regarding their specific health care needs. People who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, who are vent dependent, who have special dietary needs, who use meds that must be precisely administered, who face mental health and cognitive challenges, and so many other challenges in their daily lives, need home care and medical professionals that understand their specific care needs. They can ill afford to have unreliable home care services.”
However, the need to raise wages and benefits includes nursing home workers as well. June Holt, a former staff member for The Generations Project and the mom of an adult son with brain injury, has represented TGP at meetings with nursing home executives that were intended to improve the quality of care in those facilities. June has met significant resistance from the nursing home leaders to raising wages and benefits among their employees. She recently posted this comment on her Facebook page: “I have attended some of these (nursing home) improvement meetings in Indiana and have been treated with hostility when I suggested that they pay front line caregivers a living wage. So sad that it is more important to them that their executive directors are paid enough to drive luxury cars and that they think holding clothing drives for their aides or giving them leftover food is a good thing. This is not right.”
A number of organizations are playing a important roles in the Raise the Wage Coalition. They include SEIU Health Care, which is under the direction of Yin Min Kyi in Indiana. SEIU is a long term partner of The Generations Project and represents home health care workers and other direct care professionals. The coalition members also include the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans under the leadership of Elmer Blankenship, and significant policy analysis assistance from Fran Quigley of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at the I.U. McKinney School of Law on the IUPUI campus.
Why We Have Joined the Raise the Wage Coalition
Raising the minimum wage is a crucial component to improving the lives of persons who need home health care and community based services. The Generations Project , Hoosiers First and United Senior Action have joined the Raise the Wage coalition because too many home care and nursing home workers are grossly underpaid and forced to work with few viable benefits. That leads to high rates of turnover among those workers…and that puts people who depend on them for their health, safety, dignity and freedom at risk. Without a doubt economic justice and health justice in Indiana and throughout America are absolutely linked. To our readers and supporters we ask them to join their fellow Hoosiers and Americans in calling for wages to be raised. Raise the Wage!
© copyright 2015 The Generations Project