SWEETWATER COUNTY — With budget cuts directly affecting senior centers and services offered to seniors across the state, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART) Workers Union Local 1857 has stepped up to offer some help in the form of $1,000 donations.
On Friday, Stan Blake, SMART Union member, presented a $1,000 check to both Golden Hour Senior Center and Young At Heart Community Center.
In July, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon initiated budget cuts to each of the state department’s, starting with 10 percent cuts across the board. In August, Governor Gordon said the Wyoming Department of Health would be taking a $90 million cut.
This resulted in the elimination of the Wyoming Home Services (WyHS) program, which is used to provide services to those qualified individuals who are at risk of premature institutionalization, according to the Department of Health website.
“This means that programs that assist seniors with at-home care will no longer be funded,” Governor Gordon said during a press conference on August 26.
According to Blake, the budget cuts have already taken $11 million statewide from senior services. The majority of these services are in-home services that help seniors maintain their independence.
“Those cuts are going to effect the in-home services to seniors, so anybody who is receiving in-home care will be impacted, Jackie Grubb, GHSC Executive Director said. “It’s going to lead to early institution of seniors in Wyoming, which is going to end up costing the state more in the long run.”
Blake, who is also a Wyoming Representative in House District 39, explained that since many of the seniors in Wyoming are on Medicaid, the Medicaid program ends up paying for a majority of nursing home stays.
“A lot of that money comes from the state,” Blake said. “It’s sad. I wish the [Wyoming] Department of Health wouldn’t always go after senior services.”
AARP Wyoming reported in November 2018 that the State of Wyoming was paying about $130 million per year on long-term care for residents.
“That number could increase between $184-312 million by 2030, according to the Department of Health,” Tom Lacock of AARP Wyoming said in the 2018 article.
“Home and Community-Based Services are paid through federal and state programs and tend to cost much less than nursing homes, which can be paid for by the state through the Medicaid Program,” Lacock added.
Grubb explained that if you can’t provide the in-home services to seniors, they are going to end up in nursing homes earlier.
“That’s a big concern for us because our number one goal is to keep seniors in their homes and independent for as long as possible,” Grubb said.
Local senior centers such as Golden Hour and Young at Heart are relying now more than ever on community donations to continue providing in-home services to local seniors.
“Hopefully the men and women who work for the railroads can help make a difference,” Blake said.