Throughout the state of California, a network of 11 Caregiver Resource Centers (CRCs) provides support, training, and other assistance to family caregivers of older adults, primarily with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes. While CRCs are now available nationwide, California established the first statewide network of caregiver support organizations.
Services offered by the state’s CRC network include respite care, educational workshops, legal consultation, caregiver support groups, information and referral. Millions of California residents and their families benefit from the program, which allows many individuals to remain in their homes, cared for largely by family members. Without such supports, institutional placement would be the only option for many individuals.
Unfortunately, the California legislature has significantly reduced funding for the statewide program. In 2009, services were cut by $7.6 million – a 74% decrease! Funding cuts led to reduction in staff and services. Today, the current funding of $2.9 million must be stretched to serve approximately 6 million family caregivers.
While funding at pre-2009 levels seems unlikely, there is some hope on the horizon. The California State Assembly has made a recommendation to fund CRCs with an additional $3.8 million dollars. State and national advocacy groups, including the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), are calling for legislators’ support of restored funding. The FCA asks interested parties to contact members of the State Assembly, including the Senate Budget Committee, to show support of restored funding to at least the $3.8 million dollar level.
The FCA website provides contact information on state senators as well as a link to a sample letter of support for restored funding. A major thrust of statewide advocacy efforts is the cost-effectiveness of in-home and family care, as opposed to institutional care. Around 80% of support to impaired older adults is provided by family members, at an approximate dollar value of $47 billion annually. If this family safety net unravels, many more dollars will be spent on long-term residential care.
If you are concerned about maintaining this safety net and supporting family caregivers, let your own voice be heard. A legislative hearing will be scheduled in Sacramento at a later date, and many organizations will be there to show their support. In the meantime, a letter or phone call to your senator or Senate Budget Committee member will go a long way toward showing public support for increased CRC funding.