Local and Federal governments have more red on their accounting ledgers than black. Citizens balk against any raise in taxes, regardless of how infinitesimal the increase. The same citizens demand more services from their government. How does one get what they need without paying for it?
I’m not a politician – and never will be. I’m not a brilliant person nor do I fully understand all the nuances inherent in government bureaucracies. About this one thing, however, I am absolutely certain: many valuable services that were initially set in place for those considered vulnerable in our society are still desperately needed for even a modicum of dignity and quality of life. Did the needs suddenly disappear? NO. Did the vulnerable in our society somehow experience a miracle and are now fully capable of managing their lives on their own? NO. The needs are still there and the vulnerable in our society are being pushed to the wayside and are slipping through the cracks. Do I like paying taxes? NO. I guess I’m wondering how to generate funds for needed programs without “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Taking from one program and sliding it over to a different program robs other needed services. If ever there was a Catch-22, this is it.
Let’s look at caregiver training. In Washington State, in the year 1996, caregivers were only required to pass First Aid training, CPR and HIV training, the Fundamentals of Caregiving training (22 hours), and had to successfully pass the State’s criminal background check.
In a Seattle Times article printed January 23, 2000, Push on for more caregiver training, the following statement begins the article:
With a first-aid card and some training about CPR and HIV, you can find yourself a challenging new job caring for the elderly and infirm, bathing them, feeding them, and fielding punches from them. For this you can make about $7.50 an hour. At McDonald’s, you can make more slinging burgers and fries. It’s a wonder anyone cares for the elderly and infirm at all.
The year 2000. For the third time in four years, the Washington State’s long-term-care ombudsman (who is independent of any government agency) pushed for more training for caregivers. “The Legislature and the industry both need to step up and say this is an important key profession…People who take care of human beings are important people.” State bill I-1029 passed which would increase the number of required training hours and implement specialty training for residents with special needs such as dementia, mental health, and developmental disabilities. Implementation of this Bill’s provisions was delayed and set to go into effect March 1st, 2002.
Fast forward to February 2002. Let’s look at another Seattle Times article, Caregiver-training issue causes split in state’s long-term-care community. After the Bill from the year 2000 passed, the Department of Social and Health Services didn’t get the training curriculum revised in time for the March 1st, 2002 implementation so the State Legislature delayed the start-up of the new training requirements to September 1, 2002. Private providers of long-term care – those not accepting Medicaid – would have to foot the bill to provide employee training, most certainly passing the costs along to their residents. Long-term care facilities that accept Medicaid payments would rely on the State Medicaid program to provide the mandatory additional training and the State contended that the budget does not exist to provide the mandated training voted into law from initiative I-1029. Time to go back to the drawing board.
Bear with me. Fast forward to November 2008. Let’s look again at another Seattle Times article, Voters back more caregiver training. In 2008 a revised caregiver training Bill was passed requiring a training increase from 34 to 75 hours for new long-term care workers and required caregivers to undergo a Federal criminal background check. This bill passed overwhelmingly. It’s great that the citizens of my fair State decided that anyone taking care of the vulnerable should be held to a high standard. Oops – in the same voting cycle, initiatives that would have imposed taxes on candy, soda pop, and other piecemeal purchases failed big time. These miniscule, microscopic taxes would have saved vital services for the vulnerable and would have helped the State pay for the “mandated” new training. No money – no increased training – no Federal background checks.
One more time. Fast forward to November 2011. Washington voters asked to boost caregiver training again, Seattle Times. The Legislature delayed the implementation of the 2008 Bill because of budget cuts. And during the voting cycle of 2011, a re-worked caregiver training initiative made it to the ballot once again as Initiative I-1163, right in the middle of an ever-increasing budget crisis, and the Washington State voters overwhelming approved it. Implementation of the new training and background check requirements are set to start in 2012. Lawmakers pushed implementation to 2014 but the good news is that the Legislature won’t be able to delay implementation of the new requirements without a two-thirds majority. As of March 1, 2012 – the Washington State legislature has yet to finalize any enactment of the Bill protecting vulnerable adults; those that the voters of my state approved – and voted for – numerous times since the early 1990’s…stay tuned…
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN YOUR STATE?
HOW IS YOUR STATE PROTECTING YOUR VULNERABLE ADULT POPULATION?