The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

April 15, 2014

Take me home

Program helps people in nursing facilities who don’t need to stay

Seniors and the disabled often find themselves in a dilemma after arriving in a nursing home or other facility for temporary care or to receive rehabilitative treatment.

Problem is, once they’ve spent some time in the nursing home, they can’t get out.

Which is why we were heartened to hear about the program Take Me Home West Virginia, which provides aid to people in nursing facilities who don’t really need to stay there any longer.

The program is certainly comprehensive.

“Generally, with the folks we work with, we find them apartments and help them get set up,” said Samuel Ball, program transition navigator. “We do everything from planning how they are going to get where they’re going to actually getting them there. Our little policy when they move in, we want to make sure they have a place to sit and pickles in the refrigerator.”

The program aims to reconnect people to living in their communities, whether from a nursing home, hospital or other extended-stay facility.

Folks who qualify must be living in such a facility, and must be over 65 and receiving Medicaid benefits.

West Virginia has been slow on the uptake in implementing this program, which was funded for $1.75 billion under a Bush administration mandate in 2005 as the Money Follows the Person initiative.

Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the program has been continued and expanded, yet it still has the same goal: reducing Medicaid spending by transitioning folks living in an institutional setting to a home or apartment in their community. Funding was increased by an additional $2.25 billion.

So far, about 45 states are participating in the Money Follows the Person initiative.

“I count myself very lucky to be able to get up every day and help the people who get stuck,” Ball said. “They go into a nursing home for rehab or something to that effect and they have nowhere to go. Then the time comes for them to leave. That’s what the program is really about is those people who are stuck.”

The Take Me Home West Virginia program, at least in its southern area, is headquartered in Princeton and covers 13 counties. In Raleigh County, the Raleigh County Commission on Aging has partnered up to help handle case management.

For us, like those who regain a semblance of independence and freedom, this is government working in the best way. By helping people regain their own home or apartment, it saves significant Medicaid funding by allowing them to leave often-expensive care facilities to live on their own.

Or almost on their own.

The Take Me Home West Virginia program is in contact with its clients for a year after they’ve made the transition to independent living.

They provide furniture and sometimes appliances, and they help get utilities turned on. They get things done down to the smallest detail.

And they remember the pickles.

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