Oct 6

Springwell Testimony to the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs

Presentation by
Ruth Beckerman-Rodau
Chief Executive Officer of Springwell
The General Court of Massachusetts
Joint Committee on Elder Affairs
Hearing on Health Care and Long-Term Services and Supports
October 6, 2015
I appreciate the opportunity to present testimony to you today.
Springwell is one of 26 organizations across the Commonwealth that serve as the Commonwealth’s Aging Services Access Points (more commonly referred to as ASAPs).
ASAPs help frail, low-income seniors remain living at home by providing the long-term services and supports necessary for a dignified, independent life. The ability to stay at home is not only the preference of most seniors it in fact saves the taxpayers money by increasing the length of time that seniors can remain living at home, often eliminating the need for any nursing home placement.
The core service of ASAPs is independent, conflict-free, case management of seniors’ long-term services and supports. ASAP Case Managers and RNs meet with seniors in their homes to conduct comprehensive assessments that focus on the barriers that might prevent a senior from remaining in their home. Things like:
  • Whether or not the senior is able to get out of bed in the morning, get dressed, take care of their bathing and toileting needs, purchase groceries and make meals.
  • Whether the senior able to get their medications from a pharmacy, open the prescription bottle and take the correct medicines at the appropriate time.
  • Whether they have a primary care physician; one they have seen in the last year.
  • Whether they are receiving support for any mental health issues.
Based on this comprehensive assessment, ASAP Case Managers are able to help the senior choose those long-term services that best support their health and independence. To insure conflict-free Case Management, Springwell, like all ASAPs, does not provide the in-home services but, instead contracts with vetted vendor agencies to provide such care.
Our relationship with the senior is long-term. Regular phone calls and visits allow us to shift services as needs change and help to prevent unnecessary utilization of acute health care providers or expensive long-term care facilities.
ASAP RNs and Social Workers also make weekly visits to every nursing facility in the Commonwealth to meet with those residents who would like to return to living in their own home in the community. These RNS and Social Workers help residents identify the barriers to returning to the community and work with residents on a plan of long-term services that help overcome those barriers. Every time a nursing home resident moves back into the community we honor their wish to live independently and reduce the burden on the Commonwealth’s taxpayers.
There are 2 ways in which this Committee can help us continue to provide excellent, economical prudent services:
First, is to change the financial eligibility limit for the Home Care Program. Other than annual cost of living increases, the base level, which is now $27,014 for an individual, has not been increased since 1974. Every day, ASAPs turn away frail, low-income seniors whose annual income is just above the limit – leaving these individuals with only one place to turn to – Medicaid funded nursing home placement – which far exceeds the cost of providing in-home services.
Second, is to increase the funding that ASAPs receive to administer the Home Care Program. The number one factor impacting the quality of work that ASAPs provide is the extremely low salaries that we can offer staff. Similar staff at many government and government funded agencies can make $10,000 more per year.
An independent salary study, conducted last March, showed:
The average starting salary for an ASAP care manager was $33,255 – $13,162 below the average starting salary of comparable positions (which are 38.4% higher).
The average starting salary of an ASAP nurse was $50,858 – $11,457 below the average starting salary of comparable positions (which are 22% higher).
Every month, we lose staff who seek higher paying jobs – making the average turnover rate for ASAPs sometimes reaching over 20% – reducing the quality of care and driving up costs due to the constant need for recruitment and training.
In closing, I thank this Committee for its past support. Springwell, and all ASAPs, look forward to working together with this Committee in support of the Commonwealth’s seniors.