Adult day care centers in PA are closing due to delays in receiving state funding

Written by on December 22, 2020

Adult day care centers in PA are closing due to delays in receiving state funding

By Genesis Ortega

December 22, 2020

Many older adults require specialized care during the day that often takes place outside of their home. At the start of the pandemic, those adult day care programs went virtual. But none of their funding followed. Now the daycare centers have waivers to free up funding but the money may come too late. 

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Nancy Butow’s husband Robert has physical limitations and Alzheimer’s. Robert is 77 and used an adult day care service provided through the YWCA of Bethlehem before the pandemic. 

Since March he’s gotten some of his program through a virtual chat. 

“If it weren’t for them doing Zoom, he’d be very isolated,” Butow said. “They do chair exercises, they play Bingo. But it keeps him engaged, because otherwise he’d sit in his chair and he’d sleep.”

Miguel Rodriguez is a manager at another adult daycare center: Devi Adult Day Services in Bethlehem.

“Ultimately it’s the socialization part that actually keeps them active and thriving,” he said. “So, our main goal is to keep them healthy and independently living at home if possible.”

In March, Devi Adult Day Services had to shut down because Medicaid funding would not pay for the program when it went online. 

Initially, money from the CARES Act paid for about three months’ worth of expenses for day care centers across the Commonwealth.

But now, nine months into the pandemic, Rodriguez said that this snag in funding has made the virtual alternative unsustainable for his center.

“State health insurance won’t provide the funds for that type of service. So therefore, we really can’t provide the service via Zoom,” he said. “We don’t want to make it a funds issue but unfortunately all these programs need funds to keep running.”

And Devi Adult Day Services isn’t alone. Other centers across the state have the same problem. 

Nicole Pruitt is a representative from PA Adult Day Services Association.

“There have been 15 centers now that have turned in their license and closed across the state,” she said. “We know anecdotally that there are a lot more centers on the brink of closure, they’re just not willing to turn in their license yet.”

Pruitt said that early on in the spring, her organization urged the state to submit a waiver request so Medicaid could start funding remote services.

“We sent a proposal to the state to do meal delivery, to do wellness checks, to do virtual activities, and virtual programs, so, the things that we could do, and could figure out ways to do,” Pruitt said. “We started that conversation or tried to start that conversation with the state at that time.”

And she said the response was not fast enough. 

A spokesperson from the PA Department of Human Services said they submitted the waiver request to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in November. That’s when the state realized centers would have to shift from in-person to virtual care indefinitely, due the surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Nicole Pruitt said the waiver request was approved, but the centers haven’t seen any money yet. 

She said, “We need the state to make sure that the reimbursement rates they offer us and they pay us are going to be fair and going to actually cover the cost of us to be able to provide quality services. Or adult day centers are going to go away.”

The DHS spokesperson said they’re working on guidance. 

The YWCA of Bethlehem is offering seniors, like Robert Butow, virtual adult day care services, even though it’s getting no financial support to do so.  The Y said it will offer this program for as long as it can. 

Nancy Butow said, “It preserves my sanity, it really does. And it gave me a break from being confined at the house. And so, it’s very important to me.”

But for many other adult daycare centers, virtual services aren’t an option until funding issues are resolved. 

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