Rep. Nydia Velazquez unveiled new legislation this week to help the growing number of senior and disabled tenants in public housing access home health care services.
“Today, a growing number of New Yorkers are entering their golden years. Many will require healthcare assistance to live a full and productive life,” said Velázquez at the NYCHA’s University Settlement Senior Center in the Lower East Side, where she announced the health care initiative. “In my district alone, there are thousands of seniors living in public housing and the need for caring, competent home healthcare aides is increasing rapidly.”
The legislation, known as the Home-Based Health Services Job Training and Caregiving Act of 2008, will initiate a pilot program for job training in the home-based health care services job training. Residents of New York City’s public housing will receive this training from state-certified organizations, such as labor organizations, community health centers, and other home care providers. The pilot program aims to match these newly trained residents with the elderly and disabled NYCHA residents who are eligible for Medicaid.
“The longstanding tradition of neighbor-helping-neighbor is part of what makes New York City unique,” Velazquez said. “When we train local residents to fill a gap in our healthcare system, not only do they learn a valuable trade but they also become a valuable resource to the community.”
There are more than 130,000 elderly New Yorkers living in public housing and more than one third of the households in public housing are headed by a senior citizen. The costs of providing home health care are believed to be half of what it would cost to provide seniors with nursing assistance. Velazquez is currently working with Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts to work out the details of the legislation before introducing it to the floor.
Representatives from several organizations including the Metropolitan Jewish Health System, the New York City Housing Authority, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Public Housing Residents of the Lower East Side, SEIU HealthCare and the 1199 SEIU Homecare Division stood behind the congresswoman in support of her bill. Denis Rivera, who as chair of SEIU Health Care represents over one million health care workers, believes that the bill will help ensure that the workforce will be prepared to provide the appropriate care to an influx of aging baby boomers.
“Without a doubt, low-income elderly or disabled citizens are by far the most at risk when it comes to their safety and health,” Rivera said. “Home-based care is one of the most cost-effective means for the elderly and disabled to receive proper care.”
Aida Garcia, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU, who represents tens of thousands of health care workers across the state, hoped that the legislation will bolster the state’s home care sector. Earlier this year a proposal in the state budget called for nearly one billion dollars in cuts to nursing home and long-term health care facilities, a move which could push more seniors towards relying on home health care services.
“Far too many low-income residents do not have the resources they need to take advantage of the quality care home based caregivers provide,” Garcia said. “Instead, they often rely on family and friends, or worse, go without care entirely.”