Adult Day Care Advocates File Suit Against State

Kenny Rivera

Frances Jones, left; Natalie Frank, staff activities assistant; and Erma Westover at Acacia Adult Day Services in Garden Grove. (Photo by: Kenny Rivera)

Advocates for 37,000 adult Californians enrolled in day health care programs are suing to keep the programs going and pressing Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that would make it clear patients will receive care and not be institutionalized.

MediCal funding for the program, which was a target of state budget cuts, is scheduled to end Sept. 30. Most of the adults who use the program, including seniors with medical and mental disabilities, qualify for MediCal.

The new state budget signed by Brown last month allocates $85 million intended generally to cover patient care during a transition when MediCal is being phased out and patients are being moved to other programs.

But Brown vetoed language that specified how the money will be used, which is worrisome to adult day care advocates.

“The governor just talks about [unspecific] transition services that we’re scratching our heads over,” said Lydia Missaelides, executive director of the California Association for Adult Day Services. “We want to see the $85 million used for keeping adult day health care as a model of care for today and for the future.”

The adult day health care programs provide daytime care, therapy and medical services — such as ensuring that medications are taken on time — for adults who aren’t sick enough to go into nursing homes or hospitals.

The daytime-only programs are less expensive than nursing homes and allow family members to work while care is provided for an elderly or disabled relative, supporters argue. They contend the state will pay more for full-time nursing-home care than it was paying for daytime care should patients be forced to enter institutions.

To prevent most seriously disabled adult day health care patients from winding up in nursing homes and other institutions, Oakland-based Disability Rights California filed suit in federal court earlier this month to block the state from cutting off MediCal support.

The suit is supported by the U.S. Justice Department, which contends the state’s decision to stop MediCal funding will violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and put those who use adult day health care programs “at risk of unnecessary institutionalization.” A hearing is scheduled for July 26 in Oakland.

“The fact is,” said Elissa Gershon, senior attorney for Disability Rights California, “people [in the program] don’t have services to move in to.”

Because so many of the 37,000 adults statewide qualify for MediCal, program supporters said they’re afraid not enough patients will be left to keep the programs running. There are about 300 adult day health care programs in California.

One measure that cleared the Legislature after the budget was signed (Senate Bill 91) would provide a way to license the remaining programs so they could stay open, if they can attract enough private patients.

Another measure, Assembly Bill 96, would use the $85 million in the budget specifically to keep the adult day health care programs open for those most in danger of being put in institutions. Both measures are pending on the governor’s desk.