Board adopts in-home care authority |

Board adopts in-home care authority

Advocates for in-home care reform applauded the Board of Supervisors’ adoption Tuesday of a public authority and the benefits it will bring caregivers and the seniors and disabled they serve.

State law AB 1682, passed in 1999, requires counties to establish a public authority and designate an employer of record for in-home supportive services by Jan. 1.

Adoption of Tuesday’s ordinance establishing the Nevada County In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority will bring the county into compliance with state law, said Phil Reinheimer, the county’s public guardian and director of Adult and Family Services.

“We all have been very much in favor of IHSS reform, as far as getting better wages for caregivers and better services for clients,” Reinheimer said.

In the past, in-home caregivers were paid minimum wage, said Dave Lopez, chairman of the county’s In-Home Supportive Services Advisory Committee.

“It’s hard to find someone to work for that,” said Lopez, who has used a wheelchair ever since a 1990 automobile accident.

The authority will establish an IHSS caregivers’ registry and referral system, training for caregivers and development of a consumer complaint process for clients.

The authority will give consumers some control over their services, said FREED Executive Director Ann Guerra.

Her nonprofit helps seniors and the disabled live independent lives.

Guerra said there is still much work to be done to get the public authority up and running, and she urged the board not to stop here.

“We have to get (caregivers) enough money and benefits so they can make it a career, or at least a decent living,” Lopez said.

Under the authority, caregiver wages will increase from a current minimum rate of $6.44 to $7.25 in 2003-04 and to $7.50 in 2004-05.

“It’s a good start, but we can’t stop here,” Lopez said. “As the economy improves, we hope the county will increase that wage.”

Reinheimer said it will take up to a year before the authority is fully operational.

Although it will cost over $1.5 million to start the authority, Supervisor Elizabeth Martin said it will save the county money in the long run

“It’s cheaper for taxpayers to keep people at home instead of in institutions, and provides a better quality of life for them,” Martin said.

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