The cutoff of adult day health services occurred July 1 as part of the state’s budget cuts. The programs provided nursing and rehabilitative services to adults with a variety of conditions, such as brain injuries, developmental disorders, strokes, dementia and multiple sclerosis.
“The concern we had was just because the Legislature said ‘No more adult day health’ doesn’t mean they don’t have nursing or therapy needs,” said Louise Ryan, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Federal district court Judge Richard Jones ruled Friday that the patients’ due process rights had been violated. He ordered the state Department of Social and Health Services to immediately reinstate funding for the services until a care plan for each affected adult can be developed.
“We’re obviously going to work to comply with … what he’s asked us to do,” said Kathy Leitch, who works in the state agency’s aging and disability services administration.
In Snohomish County, adult day health services are provided by ElderHealth Northwest.
Before state funds ended, the organization had two centers in Snohomish County, one in Marysville and one in Everett. The nonprofit provides similar services in King County, serving 383 people in the two counties.
Overall, ElderHealth Northwest lost $2 million in state funds this year, said Nora Gibson, the organization’s executive director. “It’s a big financial hit.”
The budget cuts resulted in the closure of its Marysville office and layoffs of 38 staff, 12 of whom worked in Snohomish County, she said.
Now, employees are trying to contact every adult who previously received services from the organization to let them know they’re able to come back at least temporarily, she said. Transportation also must be arranged for the patients, who live in state-funded care facilities, such as adult family homes or boarding homes.
“Unfortunately, people have been harmed in the two months they have not received services,” Gibson said.
That harm includes severe muscle atrophy, including loss of function, in people who were receiving physical therapy. One such patient previously was getting services three days a week to help her exercise, stand and walk, and has had to do without, Gibson said.
Bruce Swadener, 49, of Everett has multiple sclerosis. Swadener said he received physical therapy and other services for about a year before the services were cut.
“I was sad,” he said about the loss of exercise programs, as well as lunch and sometimes crafts and games.
The court ruling means “everybody gets to go back to adult day health right now,” Ryan said. They will be assessed by a state case manager to determine their needs and where they can get replacement services through programs such as visiting nurse services or outpatient physical therapy, she said.
Any patient who is denied resumption of services can appeal that decision by requesting a hearing, she said.
“I’m very pleased with the judge’s decision and relieved that we have services reinstated for very vulnerable people with serious health care needs,” Ryan added.
For more information
Any patient who lost their adult day health services because of state budget cuts and wants to know how the court ruling affects them can call their former provider or the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program at 800-562-6028 for information.
Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or email@example.com
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