New Money for Senior Services and Prevention of Abuse

Denver CO. With the support of the Governor and the Colorado legislature, the increase in the older adult population was identified as needing additional funding to meet the growing demand for services. In just seven years, or by 2021, Colorado’s senior population age 60 and over is expected to top 1,350,000, more than double the number of individuals in 2011.

The Older Coloradoans Fund which supports such things as homemaker services, meals on wheels, senior lunch programs, transportation, and legal services for low income seniors received an additional $4 million bringing the state total contribution to $12,000,000. Individuals must be 60 years of age and over and live in the service area to receive services. Priority is given to those who are deemed in most economic and social need. Although the federal share toward these programs may be reduced due to federal budget cuts, at a minimum, the state’s contribution should ensure there are not cuts in services and may result in additional services.

Another area of concern for Governor John Hickenlooper was protecting seniors from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Colorado was one of the last states in the country to require mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Furthermore, county departments of human services have not been well funded often causing them to prioritize which cases to investigate and which cases to review and which ones to close or just monitor. Starting July 1, 2013, similar to child care, individuals who are in a place of trust such as physicians, nurses, social workers, and those working in health care facilities will be required to report any cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation for individuals who are age 70 and over. Staffing is being increased as well for counties to be able to respond to the need for protection. In addition, law enforcement is being required to investigate cases that are reported.

Legislators continued the property tax homestead exemption program for those 65 and over who have lived in their homes for 10 years or more. Individuals can apply for a 50% discount on the property tax for the first $200,000 of value of their home. Individuals can apply for this benefit through the county assessor’s office. Individuals who have previously received the credit do not need to apply; however, those who are just turning 65 must apply by July 1, 2013 to receive the credit on their 2013 tax bill that is paid in 2014.

Members of the Joint Budget Committee continued funding of $3 million for dental services for individuals who receive Old Age Pension and Medicare Savings Program. Contracts are being written with local non-profit agencies, as well as private dental practices throughout the state to offer these services. Eligible individuals can receive exams, x-rays, fillings, extractions, dentures and partial dentures.

Low income individuals who receive Old Age Pension, Supplemental Security Income, Low-income Energy Assistance and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families lost the state portion of the Low Income Telephone Assistance Program which paid about $6 toward the cost of telephone services. They will continue to be eligible for the federal program of about $10. In addition, individuals who receive benefits from those programs as well as those who receive Medicare Savings Program, Veterans Benefits, food stamps, subsidized housing and other target groups will now be eligible for the federal program. To apply, contact your telephone supplier, complete the application and provide the supporting documentation to take advantage of this benefit.

Legislators were able to increase the reimbursement to assisted living providers by 8.1% which should result in more assisted living operators being willing to accept additional Medicaid clients as of July 1, 2013. At present there are about 8000 licensed Medicaid beds, but only about 4000 older adults able to take advantage of this benefit due to the low reimbursement. Work is still continuing on finding ways to discharge individuals from nursing homes into assisted living to offer individuals the opportunity to live in the least restrictive environment.

In the area of mental health, the Governor and the legislature approved a series of bills that will increase funding for mental health services, including some emergency services. Although it is too early to tell, it is possible that some of these services may be available to older adults who experience mental health problems, and are now currently being sent to emergency rooms that are not able to meet their needs.

In summary, the 2013 session was responsive to many of the needs of older adults, especially those who are low income. In addition, the assisted living and mental health initiatives should improve utilization of the service delivery that is more appropriate.

If you have questions about any of these bills please call 303-333-3482.

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