Back on Tuesday, more than 150 advocates for saving adult day health programs fanned out around the capitol campus to make the case for preserving the centers. These are places where elderly or otherwise frail adults can go to take part in activities, meet people, and often get some counseling or health screenings. They also provide families and other caregivers with a break for a few hours.
In December, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed cutting the programs -- which serve about 1,900 elderly or developmentally-disabled people -- in order to save a little over $20 million over the next two years. (The federal government also contributes about $20 million.)
The state is wrestling with a $6 billion budget shortfall, although it's looking more and more like Gregoire will be the bad budget cop to the Legislature's good budget cop. Unless the recession gets much worse or lasts a long time, it looks like whatever budget lawmakers ultimately agree on won't be as bad as the deep cuts proposed in Gregoire's no-new-taxes plan. That's because Gregoire counted on abotu $1 billion in federal help when she wrote her budget last fall; it now looks like it will be substantially more than that.
Adult day health also has some powerful defenders in Olympia, including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. It may be trimmed, she said in a recent meeting with reporters at the capitol, but lawmakers hope to find a way to avoid cutting it entirely. House Speaker Frank Chopp -- who's clearly been hearing from Brown on the topic -- also seems to be leaning that way.
People involved with the program are looking at ways to make it more efficient, Brown said, particularly with transporting the people to the centers. But overall, she said:
“Many legislators believe that is not a program that should be eliminated, and I don't see it being eliminated. It fits within the whole continuum of care for long-term and deverlopmentally disabled people that it just doesn't make sense to us to cut it out.
"You could be essentially putting people into emergency rooms and nursing homes and more costly settings. That (cut) is one that we disagree with.”