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Medicaid changes cause South Boston adult care program to close

By Abbie Ruzicka
Globe Correspondent / December 12, 2009

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Changes in Medicaid eligibility regulations for low-income elders and special-needs adults have forced the closing of the only adult day care program in South Boston and could potentially shutter similar programs across the state, elderly care advocates said.

The Adult Day Health Program run by Catholic Charities’ Labouré Center, which previously received $300,000 a year from the state to provide nursing care and recreational and restorative therapies to 45 elders and adults with special needs, will close on Dec. 31, according to Sister Maryadele Robinson, director of the Labouré Center.

The state funds made up a large part of the center’s $540,000 budget.

Because of the new state regulations, which went into effect Nov. 15 as part of an effort to cut $6 million in Medicaid spending, at least 50 percent of adult day program participants are ineligible for some basic care, according to the Massachusetts Adult Day Services Association.

Many adult day care programs, such as the one at the Labouré Center, cannot afford to fund program participants without the state money, said a representative from the association.

South Boston resident Joyce Biele said her 82-year-old father has been going to the adult day care program at the Labouré Center two days a week for three years.

“I work during the day, so it was a relief to send dad to a safe place,’’ she said.

Biele said she has been working to find a new place for her father to go since she heard of the closing just before Thanksgiving.

“It blows me away that there’s no place for old people in South Boston to go,’’ she said. “At this point in people’s lives they have to be and should be taken care of.’’

The state has recently reviewed the new regulations and the impact on the services provided through MassHealth, said Jessica Kritz, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re working with MADSA to review the regulations and make changes as needed in order to ensure that our members receive appropriate services and that providers are paid appropriately,’’ she said.

Jamie Seagle, president of Rogerson Communities, a Boston nonprofit that provides housing and health care for low-income elders, said adult day care programs provide a less expensive alternative to institutional care.

“We keep very frail, physically compromised people with many chronic diseases on their feet and healthier so they can stay home and keep them from going to nursing homes, which costs the state more money,’’ he said.