Washington State Initiative 1029, passed by the voters two years ago, will go into effect in a little over 6 weeks. But given the desperate state of the coming biennial state budget, how long the initiative will remain in effect is still a big question mark.

I-1029 would mandate 75 hours of training for long term care workers generally employed by home care agencies, boarding homes, and adult family homes. It would also require each worker to pass a test and receive certification. The Washington Private Duty Association (WAPDA) along with associations representing boarding homes, adult family homes, and Medicare certified home care have long opposed the initiative as a draconian solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. But one of the good things (and perhaps the only good thing) to come out of the current state fiscal crisis is the likely delay of the initiative.

The state Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) have no authority to delay implementation on their own. Given their very constrained budgets, they might like to, but only the state legislature has the power to overturn or modify an initiative. Legislators we have talked to and information coming from the governor’s office seems to indicate that when the legislature meets, the odds are very good that the initiative will be delayed until 2013 or 2014. But since the initiative goes into effect on January 1 and the legislature doesn’t meet until January 10, the soonest that delay legislation could be passed in the regular session and signed by the governor is early February. But it could be May or June. Or given the sometimes inexplicable political atmosphere in Olympia, never.

The state fiscal crisis was made worse by the results of the November election, most notably the repeal of the candy/soda tax, the passage of the 2/3 requirement to raise taxes, and the failure of the proposed state income tax on high earners. For that reason, there is a remote possibility that the governor could call a special session in December. But delay to the legislation is not expected in the event of a special session.

What are long term care services including; private duty home care agencies, adult family homes, and boarding homes going to do given the tremendous implementation costs of time and money coupled with the likelihood of a 2 to 3-year delay? Most private duty home care agencies are comfortable with using only exempt home care aids for the first several months of 2011 and waiting to see what happens with delay legislation. At the very minimum, it’s a good idea to get your own agency, facility, and instructors lined up for the mandated orientation and safety training. See the DSHS 1029 website for forms and information. And stay tuned. The first few months of 2011 could be very interesting, and nerve-wracking as well.