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Skogen takes NY Mills home health tour

State Senator Dan Skogen talks with Herb and Shirley Handt in their New York Mills apartment as home health nurse Louise Tower fills out paperwork during a home visit on Monday. Skogen paid visits with Tower to better understand how home health works as the state faces budget cuts, which could affect health and human services funding.1 / 2
Home health care nurse Louise Tower checks the blood pressure of Vernadine Jensen as State Senator Dan Skogen visits with Jensen's son, Dave Harper, during a home visit in New York Mills on Monday.2 / 2

With cuts proposed across the board for the state of Minnesota, area home care providers took a step to help protect their clients by arranging several face-to-face appointments for Senator Dan Skogen, DFL, District 10.

Sen. Skogen was contacted in early December by Dan Peterson, Senior Director of Community Services with Perham Memorial Hospital and Home. Peterson heads the hospital's home care services. He arranged for the senator to meet with several New York Mills home care clients at their residences on Dec. 29.

"We've got a huge budget deficit. We're probably talking 6 to 7, to maybe 8 billion," acknowledged Peterson of the state's projected budget deficit over the next two years. "Part of the reason we did this was to put a human face on home care when legislators in St. Paul look at cuts."

Skogen made stops at three New York Mills residences, talking with home care clients about the importance of home care services. At one of the stops, both a husband and wife were utilizing the home care services available to them.

RN case manager Louise Tower went with Skogen to the New York Mills homes, serving as a representative for the PMHH home care program. She said Skogen appeared to enjoy visiting with the home care clients, and asked them specifically what would happen if they didn't have the home care services they did.

"They said that they wouldn't be able to stay in their homes," Tower said, adding how Skogen's response was that he "hoped he wouldn't have to cut services."

"The bottom line is we can't afford cuts," insists Peterson. "We need to talk about increases in order to continue providing services."

Peterson explains that home care services are paid for from the health and human services budget. He says he's heard that health and human services were instructed to do a ten percent decrease, with most other departments at a 5 percent decrease. This is a substantial cut to a sector Peterson already sees as hurting.

A letter sent to state legislators explains that the rate increases (COLA) that the state has provided to home and community based service (HCBS) providers have not kept up with increases in the cost of living. In fact, the cost of living in Minnesota has gone up three times the amount that the rates for HCBS have increased since HCBS were first funded in 1986.

"Since 2001, Minnesota has lost 16 percent of their Medicare certified home care agencies," explains Peterson. "Thirteen Minnesota counties do not have a Medicare agency in their county...over half of the counties in the state have limited access to home care services."

Home care providers around the state are urging a call to action to save Minnesota dollars and invest in home care, helping to keep Minnesota seniors in their homes. Statistics released by the Minnesota Home Care Association reveal that the annual cost per recipient per year for home and community-based services is approximately one third of the cost of nursing home care.

Sen. Skogen's New York Mills visit is one of many planned for area legislators. Other legislators are meeting with home care clients in neighboring cities. Peterson said District 10B Representative-elect Mark Murdock will be meeting with some clients in the Perham-Dent area.