DES cuts hit elderly, children, families - East Valley Tribune: News

DES cuts hit elderly, children, families

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Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2009 5:21 pm | Updated: 2:23 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The cuts made by the state Department of Economic Security in the last few weeks have been reported in headlines and spreadsheets, on Web sites and editorials.

While the governor is taking steps to restore one of the most noted cuts — childcare subsidies to working poor families — through the use of federal stimulus funs, still many others are going forth.

More than 700 employees in DES programs are without jobs, including some Child Protective Services investigators. About 9,000 must take furlough days between now and June 12. Not every case of abuse or neglect will be looked into, the DES Web site reports. Not every child will get services that may help development.

For Carrie Reed of Queen Creek, the financial impact of these cuts may be seen in the face of her 8-year-old daughter, Lauren.

“Lauren is nonverbal,” Reed said. “Her only way to communicate is through song.”

MUSIC THERAPY CUTS

Reed started Laurens Institute for Education in Gilbert, which provides a number of services but emphasizes music therapy. In the list of DES cuts made this year, the rates paid to music therapists were cut by 55 percent. Other services saw a decrease of 10 percent.

The Division of Developmental Disabilities helps individuals attain self-sufficiency and independence, according to its Web site.

Now, instead of collecting $40.10 from DDD for music therapy services, the Laurens Institute will receive $18 an hour. The cuts were instituted by DES when the state agency was told it had to shed $153 million from this year’s budget to help the state balance the books. Arizona faces a revenue shortfall around $1.6 billion this year.

“It would have been impossible for the agency to absorb that substantial a reduction without a significant impact on the children, adults and families we serve,” DES spokeswoman Liz Barker Alvarez said. “These reductions were not made lightly. These were gut-wrenching decisions for our leadership. However, as responsible public administrators, we have to manage the programs within the funding appropriated to us.”

The state’s budget crunch means little to Lauren. Her therapists are working on her communication and attention skills through musical means.

“We use music to attain nonmusical goals,” said Kathleen Walsh, co-clinical director at the Laurens Institute. “Music is prescribed for that child to meet specific goals.”

Reed said for Lauren, it’s opened doors she never thought possible. Lauren suffers from Sanfilippo syndrome, a genetic disorder in which the body is unable to break down certain types of sugar molecules.

Two and a half years of music therapy has “given her a sense of communicating,” Reed said.

Lauren attends a private school for children with special needs. She also sees an occupational therapist, physical therapist and speech pathologist, all services offered at Laurens Institute.

But music has become central to all the services she receives, Reed said.

“They have a hard time getting her to do anything in other therapies,” Reed said of her daughter. “But when it comes to music, she’ll do what she’s supposed to and starts playing again.”

Chandler resident Theresa Buhr agrees. An accident six and a half years ago put her son, Corey, now 20, in a wheelchair. He is quadriplegic and nonverbal. And while his others services have been cut, Corey remains in music therapy.

Through music therapy, Corey has started to move his fingers on his left hand to strum a guitar, Buhr said. And just this week he started making audible sounds. He’s been trying to speak since the accident, she said. When other kids at the center this week performed with drums and Corey was cued, he tried to say, “uh-huh,” Buhr said.

“When you have a brain injury, music therapy is extremely helpful. Music is processed in your brain in a different place than language. I’ve seen and observed what it does,” Buhr said.

Walsh said the cuts could hinder the center, but won’t change the center’s focus on music therapy.

“That being said, we’re put in a situation to where we may not be able to hire more therapists to treat the enormous waiting lists we have,” Walsh said.

Alvarez said that neither Medicare, Medicaid, nor the state’s AHCCCS program consider music therapy a covered service, and don’t fund it as a distinct service.

“Instead, it is one of many methodologies of habilitation, which is a way to help a person learn. In previous years, (DES) has been able to provide an enhanced rate for habilitation with a music component; however, the recent funding reductions no longer make this financially viable,” she said in an e-mail. “The service will continue to be reimbursed by the Department, but at the same rate as regular habilitation.”

Music therapists are the only one of the services at the center that is not recognized by the state licensing board, though therapists have specific degrees and national certification.

“We’ll have to reach out in our community, solicit grants and do creative fundraising,” Walsh said.

NO MORE FAMILY FUN VAN

For 13 years, the Mesa United Way has partnered with several organizations to take the Family Fun Van to area schools.

During the visits — which ran October through April — families would receive a new book to take home, have a time to socialize and share ideas with other parents and promote literacy to their children.

It was funded through a federal grant administered by the state.

And a couple of weeks ago, the Mesa United Way learned money would cease and the operation would have to shut down the end of April.

“The moms appreciated it so much,” said Maria Gongora, a senior community development associate at the Mesa United Way. “It gave them a way to go and spend a quality portion of their time with their kids. They were getting resources and information they otherwise would not know where to get them from.”

In tough economic times, that connection to others is much needed and desired, Gongora said.

“They got adult time. Sometimes when you don’t work outside of the home, you don’t get that adult socialization. That’s what will be missed — having a safe place to go and play with their kid for free.”

THOSE WAITING, WILL CONTINUE TO WAIT

It’s not just the young affected by the DES cuts. Jim Knaut, vice president of the Area Agency on Aging, which contracts with DES for Maricopa County, said some elderly will feel the pinch.

There are more than 500 elderly on a waiting list for services. With the cuts, it assures they won’t get that help, Knaut said.

DES cut about $2 million in funding to home community-based services, programs like adult day health care, home health care, respite for caregivers and home-delivered meals.

The agencies that provide the home-delivered meals are working to keep that portion going, Knaut said.

“People in need of bathing, people in need of respite care, adult day health care,” are areas being hit, Knaut said. “The only way the caregiver can continue going to work is the adult day healthcare option. They leave loved ones there. This way (with the cuts) they’re going to have to quit their job or the person becomes institutionalized if they lose those services.”

Knaut said it costs about $2,000 a year to provide in-home care to an elderly person. Should that person need to go into a full-time, out-of-home care center, the cost to Arizona is $2,000 a month through Arizona Long Term Care, a division of AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System). That is funded through Medicaid.

“If they can provide bathing for them twice a week, they’re able to stay in their home at a much less cost,” Knaut said. “It allows them to maintain their independence. They lose their independence, they have no place to go but to a nursing home. In a lot of cases, they’ll roll into (long-term care) and (long-term care) has to pick up that tab.”

While some volunteers or groups have come forward to help with adult home care, it’s just in targeted areas and not enough to make a huge impact, Knaut said.

“In those areas the cost is too great for anybody else to step in and replace what the state has taken out,” he said.

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