When State Initiative I-1029 was passed by voters in 2008, long term care agencies protested fast and loud. Even two years ago, it was clear that this Initiative, which sets new training standards and requires testing and certification for long term care workers would strain the state budget and result in the loss of jobs for caregivers who work for private-pay home care agencies serving seniors and other vulnerable citizens who don’t qualify for state Medicaid.

When the governor’s budget and the House and Senate spending plans all proposed delaying I-1029 for two years, it seemed our legislators had realized an initiative with such a huge price-tag and impacting our most vulnerable citizens, needed much more consideration. But last month, I-1029 suddenly reappeared in the revised House and Senate budgets.

In a May 14th editorial Health Care Initiative Should be Suspended, the Seattle Times urged suspension of I-1029. Among the many reasons cited were the unavailability of training, the cost to long term caregivers, and the measure’s inflexibility. The Times also urged repeal of the measure next year to be replaced by a new training law, vetted through public testimony and written by legislators.

In a May 17 Op-Ed article, State Can’t Afford Expense, Consequences of I-1029′s Caregiver-Training Program, also published in the Seattle Times, David Lawrence, President/CEO of Family Resource Home Care and president of the Washington Private Duty Association, and Doris Visaya, professional affairs director of the Home Care Association of Washington, wrote:

“Which should be the higher spending priority for Washington State in this difficult economic climate? Dental care, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for low-income seniors? Teachers’ salaries? Or a brand-new program costing millions of dollars for additional long term care worker training? Our state Legislature is about to buy the last item, at a huge cost, during a severe budget crisis, and in a way that will actually decrease the number of workers caring for our most vulnerable state residents.

Every home care agency including Family Resource Home Care supports appropriate training standards. We have fought in the legislature for higher standards and we will continue to work for safe and affordable home care for all families.”