SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today that will support seniors who wish to stay in their homes by restructuring the delivery of services to include home-based services as well as institutional care.
“This important new law will transform the system of comprehensive care in our state,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “It responds to the desire of most of our elders who dearly wish to remain in their communities near their friends and families, and it respects the will of a very independent generation.
“It also responds to a spirit of cooperation between senior groups, nursing homes associations and state agencies,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Many people in these groups worked long and hard to ensure passage of this important legislation. And so, to this group of dedicated citizens, I say ‘thank you.’”
In the past, services to seniors and people with disabilities were generally based within facilities, the governor said. The new law, Senate Bill 2880, will turn the support network into a system that balances home care with institutional care.
Sponsored by Sen. Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), SB 2880 calls for the restructuring all aspects of service, including the provision of housing, health, financial and supportive services for older people. It also calls for the development of a Nursing Home Conversion Program to be established by the state departments of Public Health and Public Aid. The program would reduce reliance on nursing homes by Medicaid, the federal-state program that pays the health-care costs for the poor. Savings from this effort would be reallocated to a broader array of options for home-based or community based services to older adults.
“We are delighted to be given the responsibility for this important transformation,” said Charles D. Johnson, director of the Illinois Department on Aging that has been assigned lead responsibility for the mandate.
“During my 30-year career in this field, I have never met a single senior who expressed the desire to leave home for care in an institution,” Johnson said. “Now we have the opportunity to make an important difference in the quality of the lives of the people who need us most.”
The new law calls for the Department on Aging to begin the restructure no later than January 1, 2005, and to give priority to the expansion and development of new services in areas identified with the greatest need.
Restructure, according to the new law, includes:
- The expansion of services to older adults and their family caregivers, subject to availability of funds,
- Development of rules to implement the law, and an annual report of progress, and
Collaboration between the state departments of Aging, Public Health and Public Aid and others to implement the act.
“Since we know that most seniors would like to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible, this legislation puts the state on the right path to rebalance the long-term care system by offering in-home and community services long before seniors need nursing homes,” said Rep. Hamos. “I am delighted that the Governor has signed this significant bill into law.”
SB 2880 is effective immediately.