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Lena Alcozer, right, a home care aide with the YWCA's Home Care Services Program, helps Francine Shoultz put away her clothes in June 2015 at Phoenix Towers.

DAVID PROEBER, PANTAGRAPH FILE

BLOOMINGTON — About 185 low-income, older adults who receive state assistance to remain in their homes in McLean County will transition to another service provider as YWCA McLean County ends its long-standing, state-assisted home care services.

Home-care services for 24 private-pay older adults will remain.

"It's true that we now have a state budget," Liz German, YWCA McLean County vice president of operations, told The Pantagraph on Wednesday. "But the damage has been done. We can't turn back the clock."

YWCA is owed $500,000 by the state and $300,000 of that is for state-assisted home-care services, German said.

YWCA's last day providing state-assisted home care services for people 60 and older will be Aug. 5, German said.

The agency has been been providing state-assisted home-care services for 45 years and has been the largest provider in McLean County, said Vicki Hightower, YWCA senior director of adult services. Two companies — Addus HomeCare and Help At Home — also accept state-assisted home-care clients in McLean County. Several companies work with private pay clients, who aren't affected by the transition.

Seventy-five part-time home care aides are being affected, Hightower said.

"We can keep 10 to 12 of the 75 for our private pay clients," she said. The remaining employees are being urged to apply for other open positions at the YWCA and to Addus and Help At Home, Hightower said.

Addus and Help At Home will interview YWCA home care aides who apply. The goal is for those companies to hire as many of the former YWCA aides as possible so aides can continue to provide care to the same clients.

"Both companies have agreed to hire staff," Hightower said. Affected staff and clients have been informed. "We have been working to make sure that it's a smooth transition."

Assisting is Community Care Systems, Inc., which does care coordination for people 60 and older who need community-based services to remain at home.

"We'll talk with each participant (client) to tell them about Addus and Help At Home," said Marsha Johnson, director of Community Care Systems' case coordination unit. "We'll work with them so they can get the help they need."

"It's really sad," Johnson said. "YWCA has been a quality provider. It's a loss to the community."

"It's upsetting but it's completely understandable," said Christy Lear, case coordination unit supervisor. "The (state) budget has put a strain on agencies."

Home-care services include light housekeeping, meal preparation, medication reminders and bathing assistance. Older adults who quality for state assistance because they are on Medicaid and have low income and assets receive an average of five hours of help a week without charge.

When the state budget impasse began more than two years ago, five organizations provided state-assisted home care in McLean County, German said. Two left with the budget crisis, so YWCA's number of state-assisted clients rose from 100 to 185 and its number of aides grew from 30 to 75.

But YWCA has not been fully reimbursed for the service, and payments have been delayed, meaning YWCA has been covering more of the cost of services.

YWCA leaders went to the Illinois Department on Aging twice and asked if YWCA could cap its number of clients served and the department said no, German said. After the second rejection, YWCA concluded it could no longer provide the service and terminated its contract with the state, she said.

"We do our best to work with every valued vendor's circumstances, and, in fact, reached out to the YWCA only yesterday to ask if they'd reconsider closing their program in light of the new state budget," Illinois Department on Aging spokesman Mike Deering said later Wednesday. "However, in this case, the nature of the client cap it requested is not permissible within the terms laid out in the General Assembly's administrative rules."

The cut — and the recent elimination of Medivan services — mean that the YWCA will be down to 130 employees, 40 of them full time. YWCA is not considering cutting other services because the home-care program and Medivan were the most reliant on state money, German said.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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