"The governor has made this clear: All these reductions are very difficult," Department of Social Services spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez has said. "They were crafted in a way to affect people with the lowest level of need."

But Donna Calame, executive director of the San Francisco County agency overseeing the IHSS program, says it's wrong to allow bureaucrats who don't understand the program to classify some disabilities as too mild to require help. "This is cutting people who need reminders to take medication, reminders to take a bath, reminders to pick up their apartment so they don't have roaches and rats infesting their apartments, which could lead to evictions," she says.

On Oct. 19, a federal judge in Oakland halted those cuts, which would have taken place Nov. 1 and saved $66 million. Advocates for the disabled argued that the criteria for refusing disabled people help were arbitrary and would cause undue suffering. The state is now expected to ask an appellate court to reinstate the cuts.

In the meantime, local governments are struggling to find ways to continue providing services. San Francisco has a Community Living Fund of a few million dollars; the local Department of Aging and Adult Services is trying to route some federal stimulus cash to pay in-home carers; and social workers have been able to reclassify some recipients so that they fit the definition of the most helpless people, whom the new state budget is designed to spare.


These efforts, however, won't necessarily help people like Meyer, whose pensions or Social Security income make them too rich for fully subsidized in-home care under new cost-cutting rules that raise the deductible recipients must pay toward in-home care, leaving them around $600 a month for living expenses. Previously they've been permitted $850 a month.

On Oct. 19, attorneys for disability rights group Bay Area ADAPT and other plaintiffs, including Meyer, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court complaining that the state's notice of the cuts was confusing and didn't advise recipients of their rights to seek relief.

"These people, these are who Republicans like to call the deserving poor, who worked all their lives, and busted their butts, and then retired," said Elena Ackel, an attorney representing Meyer and his fellow plaintiffs. "Most of them have no savings, and they're going to get their notices in the mail, and they're going to be fucked."

Ackel had hoped to obtain an injunction, but said a judge turned her down, based on the assertion that she had given insufficient notice: "People from the state said we didn't serve them," she said, because she "gave notice on Furlough Friday."

A state government that might possibly have avoided having to pay for care of its poor, elderly, and disabled because it can't afford to stay open on Fridays isn't clever, or even lucky.

It's sick.

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