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Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides quality-of-life care for nearly 700 seniors in the local area everyday, including adult day healthcare, transportation, meal delivery and other services. But proposals to cut the state’s $24 million budget deficit may jeopardize the funding JFS receives and the services seniors rely on.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a budget proposal in January that outlined a $4 billion reduction to the state’s general funding for in-home senior services and the Adult Day Healthcare (ADHC) program. Nancy Volpert, director of public policy for JFS, said the organization has already lost $11 million in funding during the last two years, and could stand to lose millions more if the cuts are enacted. Volpert said that would translate into less services being provided though the JFS’ Multi-Purpose Senior Service (MSSP) program, which enables seniors to stay in their homes and receive general healthcare as opposed to being forced to move into assisted living facilities. During the last two years, JFS has already dropped from serving 798 local seniors to 667. While it is not known exactly how many more seniors would be affected until the budget is adopted later this year, Volpert said she expects the number will be dramatic.
“The proposed cuts would have a direct and negative effect on older adults in the community,” Volpert said. “What happens to these people? They either get institutionalized, they stay home without care, or they end up in emergency rooms, where it is even more expensive to care for them.”
Volpert said the cuts could also translate into reductions in services at many of the agencies JFS operates in the area, including the senior center at Plummer Park in West Hollywood, the Hirsh Kosher Kitchen on Fairfax Avenue, the Freda Mohr Senior Center, and the SOVA Food Pantry. JFS collectively serves approximately 100,000 people citywide. The cuts also have many people who advocate for local seniors very concerned, including Rick Rickles, chair of the West Hollywood Senior Advisory Board.
“To me, JFS is one of the biggest assets West Hollywood has, and we are so fortunate to have this agency in our community. We fully support agencies such as SOVA that feed the needy, and support JFS programs that offer creative and recreational opportunities for seniors, and physical programs for seniors” Rickles said. “The assembly authored legislation last year to preserve funding for programs, but I don’t know what is going to happen this year. It would be very bad if these programs were cut.”
The State Assembly will be meeting in the coming weeks to determine whether some of the cuts can be avoided, but the situation is looking dire, according to Assemblyman Mike Feuer, 42nd District.
“It’s much more challenging than last year. We are now having to make twenty to twenty-five percent further cuts to a budget that had previously decimated these programs,” Feuer said. “These programs are essential because they enable people to live independently and prevent them from having to go to nursing homes. I have worked closely with Jewish Family Services to continue these vital services, such as Adult Day Healthcare. The human cost of these cuts is astronomical.”
While Feuer said he would continue to push for funding for senior services to be kept in place at the state level, others are working locally to ensure they continue. The West Hollywood City Council voted on February 1 to allocate another $15,000 to JFS. The city currently provides approximately $1.1 million annually to the organization.
“They are probably our largest grant recipient. We help fund a nutrition program, the Adult Day Healthcare program, the food pantry and all the social work that occurs at Plummer Park,” said Daphne Dennis, social services manager for the City of West Hollywood. “We consider these services essential. The council is being as responsive as possible given the fact that everyone is in a very bad position.”
Volpert said JFS’ current budget is approximately $25.7 million, which was down approximately $1.2 million from the previous fiscal year. Volpert added that although some seniors who receive services pass away, they are replaced by new people in need.
“It’s not a finite group,” Volpert added. “When you have an aging population like we do, you have other people who become eligible for services all the time.”
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