SALEM — Elderly and adults with disabilities are getting benefits returned to them.

According to a press release last week from the Department of Human Services, DHS’s Aging and People with Disabilities program reached an agreement with Disability Rights Oregon, Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the Oregon Law Center to “restore long-term care hours and benefits.”

Back in September of 2017, Aging and People with Disabilities reduced hours of service for Oregonians which resulted in the loss of service eligibility for some after rule changes were made last summer and fall.

The agreement was reached after the department received feedback from stakeholders and reflected on the changes that were made. Though these benefits will be returned, including in-home care services, “the agreement calls for additional discussions about a permanent plan for the program.”

“Thousands of Oregonians with physical disabilities or older Oregonians wish to live independently, but need help meeting their daily care needs,” the release said, adding that in-home care services make doing that possible while long-term residential care provides “home-like” settings for people still who need extra care.

However, long-term care is not always covered by average health insurance or even Medicare.

Right now 35,000 “older Oregonians and Oregonians with disabilities receive long-term care services through APD, including over 18,000 who receive services in their own homes,” the release said. “About 5,000 people may be impacted by this agreement. APD will send letters to impacted consumers no later than February 23.”

The release went on to explain that APD will continue to negotiate future standards and procedures for in-home and residential care.

“People who lost eligibility or in-home hours as of September 30, 2017 will have their benefits restored while APD and the advocates discuss future standards,” the release said.

APD’s agreement will also give the department more time to spread awareness about an individual’s rights in seeking services, eligibility criteria, and how to request exceptions when current service plans are insufficient.

“When older Oregonians and people with physical disabilities live in their own homes, they enjoy greater independence and self-determination,” said Tom Stenson, litigation attorney for Disability Rights Oregon. “Temporarily restoring these vital in-home care services means that thousands of people with disabilities and older Oregonians will have a voice in their care. This agreement is a promising first step toward finding a way to protect these crucial services that make a difference in the lives of thousands of Oregonians.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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