Balto. Co. ends adult day care Future of 48 workers, 150 clients is uncertain

private firms may be used

March 12, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County is getting out of the adult day care business, leaving an uncertain future for 48 workers and the 150 elderly clients they transport and care for at area senior centers.

The Ruppersberger administration hopes to attract private vendors to take over the three programs that have been operated for 12 years at centers in Dundalk, Catonsville and Towson.

Some low-income, elderly participants whose program fees have been subsidized by the county might not get the same break from private vendors, officials said.

Bottom line, it's a $540,000 budget cut, effective July 1.

"Everything is painful," said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III.

Mr. Ruppersberger said the county will put aside some money to help clients in transition to private programs. Federal and state subsidies for low-income elderly still will be available, but he called privatizing the service "a proper and positive alternative."

Michael H. Davis, the executive's spokesman, said, "I don't know what else we could have eliminated" in the Department of Aging.

The cut includes the elimination of a third of Countyride buses and drivers -- which will no longer be needed to transport day care clients to and from the programs.

The county hopes to find vacant government jobs for many of the workers, officials said. Charles L. Fisher Jr., director of the Department of Aging, said he had to find a way to cut spending for the next fiscal year because of flat revenues and expected federal budget cuts.

"When you're in the human services field, people get hurt" [by budget cuts], he said.

Without this cut, Mr. Fisher said, he would have had to cut a range of services to the elderly, including hours of operation at 18 senior centers. The county closed four centers in 1993 because of recession-driven budget cuts.

Eliminating the day care programs seemed a better choice, Mr. Fisher said, because a thriving private adult day care industry has emerged in recent years. He said he has had several inquiries from private operators about taking over the county programs.

County officials said any rent received from private operators would be used to continue the subsidies for low-income elderly participants. Mr. Davis said the county was not trying to make money, just cut its expenses.

The county's decision to eliminate the day care programs worried people like Betty Evans of Dundalk, a retiree who takes her 90-year-old mother, Lois Moore, to the Ateaze Adult Day Care Center in Dundalk four days a week.

Ms. Evans, 66, said her mother, a day care client for three years, suffers from senile dementia and needs constant attention.

The county program is good for both of them, Ms. Evans said, because it keeps her mother out of a much more expensive nursing home and gives the women a break from each other.

"They have entertainment, crafts, they draw pictures," Ms. Evans said. She said these are activities her mother enjoys, while she gets some needed hours of freedom.

Because Ms. Moore cannot afford the full $57-a-day cost, the county lets her use the center for $5, a now-threatened subsidy.

"We couldn't afford it," Ms. Evans said, citing her mother's $140-a-month pharmacy bills for heart medication, and the expenses of running the Edgemere home she has lived in since 1937.

County Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said council members are sympathetic to the elderly, but he would not want to raise taxes to pay for day care.

"We only have so many dollars," he said. "The question is, where do we draw the line?"

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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