Program to keep seniors in their homes faces cuts

Program to keep seniors in their homes faces cuts

GRESHAM, Ore. – An Oregon program long touted as innovative for how it helps seniors and people with disabilities is once again on the chopping block in Salem.

Project Independence focuses on keeping people 60 years old and over out of expensive assisted living facilities.

Grant and Christine Glenn depend on the program and enjoy the simple pleasures like playing with their dog, Mickie. Those simple things remind them how good it is to be in their home instead of a nursing home.

"I really don't want to go to a home. I want to stay in my own house," Grant says.

"It means everything to us. We really enjoy our home and the freedom that it allows us to move around," Christine says.

They've lived in the same house in Gresham for 32 years. But between dialysis and oxygen, chores are now more challenging. So every other week, Oregon Project Independence sends in a housekeeper to check on them and straighten things up.

"She dusts, mops floors (and) makes beds," says Christine.

But the program is slated to be slashed in half. Oregon lawmakers are trying to make up for a $3.5 billion shortfall.

"They always want to cut stuff for seniors or the kids," Christine says. "And to cut from the seniors is pretty devastating."

Program supporters say the state pays between $200 and $250 per month for seniors, like the Glenns, to stay in their home. Were they to move to a nursing home, that cost could skyrocket to $7,000 a month per person.

"They don’t look at the math," says Grant. "To them it seems like money is not really that important. They’re just going to do whatever they want to do."

Project Independence was spared at the last minute in 2009. Lawmakers, again, say they’re trying to find a way to save it but can’t make promises.

A final decision could come in June. Senior programs did get a $63 million boost from the governor but they’re losing federal stimulus money. In all, it’s about a $197 million drop.