SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced plans to strengthen programs for vulnerable Illinois seniors through increased levels of service at the Illinois Department on Aging. The Governor’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2005 of $401.7 million supports the growth of in-home and community-based services to help frail elderly people remain in their homes and to offer them a voice in the direction of their own care.
The Department on Aging is responsible for serving and advocating for Illinois senior citizens. The department provides a comprehensive service delivery system to serve the state’s 1.9 million seniors in coordination with 13 Area Agencies on Aging.
“Service to seniors comes first,” said Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson. “I am proud that our new budget strengthens and increases support to the people who need us most, and I am proud of our staff who are working diligently to make administrative reforms to achieve increased efficiency.”
The new budget includes an appropriation of $325.7 million in General Revenue funds, which is an increase of almost 11 percent over last year. The budget includes $67.6 million to transfer the Circuit Breaker-Pharmaceutical Assistance Program along with 53 staff from the Department of Revenue to the Department on Aging.
The Governor’s budget plan includes $237 million to support case management, homemaker and adult-day services through the Community Care Program. It includes $2.9 million to fund the increase in the qualifying non-exempt asset level for services through the Community Care Program that took effect on January 1, 2004. The raise in the non-exempt asset level, from $10,000 to $12,500, is expected to enable an additional 600 frail elders to access program services. The budget maintains programs to protect elder rights and boosts advocacy through the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
Other services funded through the Department on Aging include transportation, home-delivered meals, information and assistance, congregate meals, legal assistance and health promotion and disease prevention services.
“Our goal is to delay or prevent institutionalization by providing a wider array of services and more consumer-directed service options of care in the community,” Johnson said. “This is what seniors want, and we are determined to respect the wishes of the citizens whom we serve. In addition, community based care is more cost efficient. Our effort will not only increase the quality of life of the seniors in our state, but it also achieves a higher level of accountability to the taxpayers in Illinois. Among the Department’s goals is not only to focus on how many people we serve, but on how well they are served and the cost of that service.”
The Department’s budget also includes $66 million in federal funds through the Older Americans Act. Most of the federal money is distributed to 13 Area Agencies on Aging and local agencies that provide meals, transportation, information and assistance, legal services and other community based programs to more than 500,000 seniors.