Aging and Disability CONNECTIONS Newsletter
Governor Mills’ Budget Proposal Boosts Funding for Older Adults, Individuals with Disabilities
Governor Mills has delivered her proposed budget to the Legislature for the two-year period that begins July 1, 2023, and it includes significant increases for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
The proposal includes $169 million in new investments to promote healthy aging, including several high-priority items from the Elder Justice Roadmap, developed by a private-public partnership to address abuse, neglect and exploitation among older adults. The Elder Justice package includes funding for the Elder Service Connections program, operated by the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine to connect Adult Protective Services clients to services and facilitate meaningful changes in their lives. The package also includes more funding for civil legal services as increasing numbers of older adults face eviction proceedings in Maine’s tight housing market. The budget proposal also expands the capacity of Adult Protective Services.
The Governor’s budget also promotes sustainable living, a key theme emerging from the Cabinet on Aging. This includes a significant investment of state funds in home delivered meals to ensure that a million meals per year can continue to be delivered as one-time federal COVID-19 funding tapers. It also includes funding to expand home based care and significant rate increases for a range of home and community based supports, including adult day centers, assisted living and supports to people living in apartment settings. The budget also includes funding for Area Agencies on Aging to expand information and assistance through their Aging and Disability Resource Centers. Finally, the budget proposal includes significant additional funding for nursing homes, including the Maine Veteran’s Homes.
The proposed budget also includes $84 million to expand access and promote innovation in programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This includes funding to serve 900 more people in the Section 29 waiver program, which will eliminate that program’s waiting list and keep up with new applicants. It also includes funding to ensure ongoing availability of reserve capacity in Section 21 for individuals with priority 1 needs. The budget also includes funding for rate increases in all of Maine’s waiver programs, including Section 18 for individuals with brain injury and Section 20 for individuals with other related conditions.
As she noted in her budget address to the Legislature, the Governor also included funding to implement a new Lifespan waiver program beginning January 1, 2025, and enroll 540 individuals in the final six months of the biennium. Lifespan will expand eligibility of waiver services to children with intellectual disabilities beginning at age 14, and will have a flexible service design that will enable individuals to change the supports they receive as their needs change over time. Once Lifespan is operating, individuals will no longer need to start services in one program while getting on a waiting list in anticipation of changing future needs. Lifespan is expected to include several service innovations currently being tested as part of recent innovation grants made by the Department (story below). You can find more information on Lifespan here. The Department has proposed a companion bill, LD 659, which articulates the program’s goals and its relationship to existing programs.
Governor Mills’ budget proposals will enable significant progress to continue for older adults and individuals with disabilities in Maine. Public hearings on the budget occurred in February and deliberations are now underway.
~Paul Saucier, Director
Direct Care and Support Professional Advisory Council
The Maine Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) established the Direct Care and Support Advisory Council with funding from the Maine Health Access Foundation (MEHAF) and funds available under section 9817 of the American Rescue Plan, in partnership with the Office of Aging and Disability Services (OADS). The mission of the Council is to bring direct care and direct support professionals together to create a strong voice to inform policy makers about the issues that are important to them.
Current Council members span across the state and in various long-term support and care settings. They are Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Personal Support Specialists (PSS), and Direct Support Professionals (DSP). Additionally, Council members represent the diversity of Maine’s essential workers.
Since the creation of the Council, members have met with OADS staff to learn about workforce initiatives and legislation that provided funding to increase wages. Representatives from the Maine Women’s Lobby met with members to discuss the Family Medical Leave Act. Council members participated in the Caring for Maine campaign and served on a panel for the Maine Association of Community Services Providers. Recently, Council members participated in a presentation before the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services. Additional information about the Council’s work is available here.
Maine Ranks 4th in Direct Care Workforce
In a recent report comparing Direct Care Workforce efforts Maine is excited to have placed fourth in the nation! The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) created a Direct Care Workforce State Index, designed to help policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders understand how states support direct care workers, where they can improve, and how they compare to other states. These results are in part due to the coordinated efforts of the Governor’s Office, the Department of Labor, Maine’s Community Colleges, the University of Maine System and DHHS. Maine’s efforts to improve the direct support workforce are summarized in a report recently released by the Department, Second Annual Report on Efforts and Progress in Implementing the Recommendations of the Commission to Study Long-term Care Workforce Issues. The report provides an update of activities including payment increases, recruitment campaigns, education and training assistance, self-direction, curricula and credentials work and more. Although workforce shortages continue to constrain services, year-over-year data in the report show modest increases in services from 2021 to 2022. Report highlights can be found here.
Tribal State Collaboration Act
The Tribal State Collaboration Act of 2022 aims to promote respectful, government-to-government dialogue and communication between Maine’s state agencies and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Mi’kmaq Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and the Penobscot Nation. The Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services to engage in a tribal collaboration process regarding contemplated programs, rules or services that substantially and uniquely affect the Indian Tribes or their members.
In December 2022 the Department issued the DHHS Tribal Collaboration Policy which governs our work. OADS looks forward to engaging with Maine’s four federally recognized Indian Tribes on topics of mutual interest.
DHHS Makes First Round of Innovation Grant Awards for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Innovation Pilots
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $4.3 million in its first round of HCBS innovation grants to 13 organizations throughout the State in a competitive process, using federal HCBS improvement funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act. The projects cover a broad range of innovations, from technology to self-advocacy, and seek to make community participation a reality for people with diverse needs, including individuals who require significant behavioral health supports. OADS is pleased to be partnering with The National Disability Institute (NDI) who will be acting as fiscal agent to distribute funds and monitor grant activity, providing technical assistance to awardees, and supporting project evaluation and reporting. For more specific information about these exciting projects, please see DHHS’s blog DHHS Awards First Round of Grants for Innovative Projects Supporting People with Disabilities which was posted on February 28, 2023.
Attention IDD Service providers!
Did you know that the COVID Immunization Grant program will reimburse providers of Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) services for hosting COVID/flu vaccination clinics? Eligible clinics should be focused on serving individuals with IDD, their families, and staff. A reimbursement of $2,000 is available for clinic-related costs, such as provider staff expenses, clinic set-up, advertisement, and clean-up costs. The program will cover costs for two vaccine clinics per year, each being eligible for reimbursement (up to a grand total of $4,000 for two clinics). If you would like to participate in the program or learn more, please email Trinity Baker, the OADS Vaccine Outreach Manager, at Trinity.Baker@maine.gov
Cabinet on Aging Update
In Volume 1/ Issue 1 of Aging and Disability Connections you heard about the launch of Governor Mills Cabinet on Aging. We are pleased to share that Elizabeth Gattine has joined the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future as a Senior Policy Analyst and Cabinet on Aging Coordinator. Many of you may know Elizabeth through her various positions such as, Senior Policy Associate at the Catherine Cutler Institute, part of the Muskie School of Public Service, at the University of Southern Maine, or by her fifteen years of experience as a Program Manager at the Office of Aging and Disability Services overseeing Long-Term Services and Supports programs.
As the Cabinet on Aging Coordinator, Elizabeth has been full steam ahead. Based on recent input from public stakeholder meetings, the Cabinet is currently focused on identifying and implementing strategies that; support sustainable living for older Mainers in their communities; support community connections that improve quality of life, inclusion, and engagement of older adults; and engage older residents in active retirement and work. For information related to work of the Cabinet and how you can provide input please visit: https://www.maine.gov/future/initiatives/aging
What's New with COVID-19?
Flu season 2022-2023 has been especially challenging due to the collision of 3 respiratory viruses, resulting in a triple threat or “tripledemic.” Not only did we see an uptick in COVID 19, but the Influenza virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) peaked earlier and harder than in recent years, overwhelming emergency rooms and hospitals yet again. Luckily, the worst appears to be behind us. But here’s a reminder. COVID- 19 remains active, and we continue to see new cases every day. As in the past, those who might be in a high-risk category should still do everything they can to stay safe and healthy. This includes avoiding big crowds, and masking when in closed crowded spaces. And of course, be sure to get that COVID-19 Bivalent Booster. It’s not too late.
Have you heard about Respite for ME? Respite for ME Grants, funded by the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, will allow caregivers to access respite care as well as other services not currently covered by existing programs. Eligible caregivers may receive up to $2,000 to access needed services. You can learn more at the FAQ found on our website!
OADS to Hire New Housing Coordinator to Support Growth in Housing Options for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and AutismThis new housing coordinator position, funded under the Innovation FMAP project, will lead a significant project to transition a current rental subsidy program to one that affords direct access to this program by waiver members. The person in this position will also liaise with the Housing Authority of Maine with the goal of ensuring that individuals with IDD and Autism and their families are represented when discussion arise about new housing projects in Maine. As the Department considers alternative housing options in the new life span waiver, and other Innovative projects, this position will assist with developing policies and rule to support these other options.