Officials say aging seniors could run out of vital program fundi - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Officials say aging seniors could run out of vital program funding

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The state of Illinois says its more than a billion dollars short when it comes to keeping some services afloat.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka made the announcement this week that Illinois is expected to run out of money by the end June. She says if state leaders don't act the situation could "become a crisis."

The Department of Aging is actually $200 million short. The Community Care and Home Services Programs is just one that's in danger. These programs help seniors and people with disabilities in their homes instead of them having to go to into a nursing home for more expensive care.

"It just seems to be a new layer of an old problem," said Todd Shackelford, Assistant Director of the West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. "The state of Illinois simply spends more than it makes or it's not spending it in the right directions. And again, this program is so critical and vital to our seniors. And it's doing such a good service. for seniors keeping them independently in their home with the supportive care that's provided by a network of agencies."

Shackelford says it just doesn't make sense.

"It seems uncanny that we don't have enough money to fund a program that actually saves the state significant amounts of money," said Shackelford.

Shackelford says the seniors in this program can often only stay in their homes because of the services these programs provide; Things like adult day care. One participant says he goes to the day care because he really enjoys it there and that without it, he'd be all alone.

Other organizations could run out of funding as well.

The Department of Children and Family Services, Workers Compensation, Health Insurance Reserve Fund all are at risk and the Health Insurance Reserve Fund has already run out of state funding for the fiscal year.

Despite the looming threat of the money running dry, Nancy Brinkman with Addus Healthcare in Quincy says a reduction or even all-out stop in state funding dollars will not stop her company from taking care area seniors who rely on their services.

"They are our number one priority. We will borrow the money," Brinkman said. "They are our priority."

Addus provides assistance and care to area seniors on everything from getting them groceries to helping them clean.

Brinkman says the state of Illinois owes Addus for bills due all the way back in August. But, she says Addus is a nationwide company with deep pockets. So she says it can afford to wait or they'll borrow. But, she says, it shouldn't have to.

"These seniors deserve these programs. And they are entitled to these programs," Brinkman said. "And again our legislature needs to stop playing politics. They need to get together and they need to get these funds ready, granted, and taken care of our seniors."

Brinkman says this would not be the first time she had to borrow money due to a lack of state payment. She says state programs get cut back quite often.

Brenda Fleming with the Agency on Aging in Quincy says the state is so far behind on payment to her organization that it might have to borrow money.

One of Fleming's jobs with the agency is to decide how many seniors will get help and to investigate abuse of the elderly. That's something she says is a big problem around here. Fleming says if state funding runs out, fewer seniors will get help under her program.

"Seniors depend on these services," Fleming said. "Over the years since I've been here, the need for those services has really increased. More families are moving away, not staying in the Quincy area and more seniors are dependant on services to keep them at home."

Fleming says the state is six months behind in payments to her agency. That's a big part of her budget. She says her program being "at-risk" has a lot of area senior citizens concerned.

"Every year we go through this and it scares the seniors," said Fleming. "Seniors get wind of it. They read it in the newspaper. They see it on TV and they're scared that they're going to have to go to the nursing home."

Fleming says they will do whatever needs to be done to see that seniors remain safe in their homes, although she says it probably will mean taking out a loan to cover the costs.

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