Facilities Home and Community Based Housing News Testimony

S418 and H745: Personal Care Homes

An Act relative to expanding the availability of personal care homes for older adults

Personal care home” or “home”, a premise in which food, shelter and personal assistance or supervision are provided for a period exceeding 24 hours, for no more than six adults who are not relatives of the sponsor, who do not require the services in or of a licensed long-term care facility, but who do require assistance or supervision in activities of daily living or instrumental activities of daily living.

Testimony for Senate Bill 418 and House Bill 745 was submitted July 12 by Dignity Alliance members.

Meg Coffin’s Testimony

Download testimony(docx) from Meg Coffin: Testimony on Senate 415 and H 745 by Meg Coffin.

Good Afternoon.  I am Meg Coffin, CEO at Center for Living & Working and a member of Dignity Alliance Massachusetts.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

For decades, thousands of older adults and people with disabilities in our state, who are perfectly able to live at home with adequate supports, have been forced to live in institutional and congregate settings such as nursing facilities. Not having a choice in where they live has diminished these individuals’ dignity and independence and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has tragically cost far too many of them their lives.  Institutional and congregate settings put these individuals at a much higher risk of infection and death.

To remedy this injustice, Dignity Alliance Massachusetts recommends that Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) be recognized as an essential component of the Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) continuum and that every person eligible for institutional care  has the right to access HCBS as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U. S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, and Massachusetts’ 2006 “Equal Choice” law.   

Personal Care Homes are one option in the LTSS continuum that gives older adults and persons with disabilities an opportunity to live independently in the community, especially those who may not have an informal support network that is often needed.   It will offer another community option in a state where the availability of affordable accessible housing is at an all-time low.  This option will  allow residents to share homecare staff who will be assigned to each home, easing the need to find a PCA in an employment sector that is critically understaffed.

Currently there are over 31,000 individuals living in nursing facilities in Massachusetts and many of them have the capacity to live in the community with the appropriate services and supports.  As a Commonwealth, particularly in the light of the past 15 months with the COVID pandemic, we want to continue moving away from institutional settings for older adults and individuals living with disabilities and make living in the community with the appropriate supports the setting of choice. 

Building on the success of the 2006 Heart Home Pilot Program, Dignity Alliance Massachusetts hopes Personal Care Homes will be just one of numerous affordable and accessible community housing options available for older adults and those living with disabilities. 

Samantha VanSchoick’s Testimony

Download testimony (docx) from Samantha VanSchoick: Testimony on Senate 415 and H 745 by Samantha VanSchoick.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. My name is Samantha VanSchoick, I am a resident of Florence, and I have the pleasure of serving as the Communications Workgroup Co-Chair for Dignity Alliance Massachusetts, in addition to my work as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Corporation for Independent Living (CIL). CIL is a nonprofit that specializes in developing licensed community residences for persons with developmental and other disabilities.

Formed in 1979, we have developed over 750 licensed community residences in Massachusetts and Connecticut. CIL developed the homes that led to the closures of Belchertown State School, Dever State School, and Fernald and Monson State Schools. While most of those homes have been developed under long-term lease/donation agreements with private providers, we have worked directly with DDS and DCAMM staff on about 60 state-operated residences.

A little history: CIL was created to be not just a developer for the disabled, but to be an advocate for the disabled.  A mass social movement was underway to eliminate the social isolation of persons with disabilities and to provide them with the dignity, the better care, and the self-autonomy that only can be found in community based, socially integrated, home-like settings. Thousands of persons were able to move from large, socially isolated institutions to homes and apartments in a variety of urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods. A critical element of this movement was the recognition that disabled persons have a right to control their environments, to control who comes into their homes, to live where they wanted amidst non-disabled persons, and to have homes they could call their own.

Older adults have been left out of this deinstitutionalization movement.  The main message I would like you to take away is that the community residences, or personal care homes, provided for in this bill may be new for this population, but they are not new to the Commonwealth, and they are a important housing option for people to have access to. Most recently, we’ve seen the successful outcomes that come from making it possible for new populations to have access to these home environments with the acquired brain injury (ABI) waiver program.

I’d like to share one such success story with you today. My favorite part of my job is when I get to visit the homes we’ve developed and talk to the people that live in them. I would like to tell you about Judy, a resident of an ABI home we developed in the Plymouth area. Judy lived and worked most of her life in Massachusetts, and even worked at the Playboy Club in Boston as a server for many years – something she was very proud to tell me, as she has a big photo from those days framed on her bureau. Before Judy moved into her new home, she had been living in a nursing home. “I was really worried before I came here, because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me,” she told me at the time. “I didn’t want to be in a nursing home for the rest of my life. We are really lucky.” What Judy calls luck, I call good policy centered in dignity, choice, and respect. I urge you to support this legislation. Thank you.