$1.2 million state cut looms for Modesto senior care program

January 24, 2010 

  • DMC Foundation

    • WHAT: A nonprofit organization providing health education and services

    • WHERE: 730 McHenry Ave., Modesto

    • PHONE: 527-3412

    • ANNUAL BUDGET: $2.5 million

    • NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 70

    • SERVICES: Adult day health center; Alzheimer's day service; childbirth, family, safety and diabetes education; Lifeline emergency response system; Medical Outreach Mobile; Club Fit Mall Walking for seniors; Fresh Outdoors Project to decrease tobacco exposure.

    • FUNDING: Medi-Cal reimbursements, grants, private donations, fund-raisers, support from Doctors Medical Center, Memory Lane thrift store, lease revenue

As the dominoes fall in California's social services system, the DMC Foundation of Modesto is determined to keep its programs alive.

The future of its Alzheimer's day service was threatened in October when Gov. Schwarzenegger blue-penciled its funding in the state budget. The nonprofit foundation opened a thrift store in November, generating $5,100 a month to sustain the program.

State cuts removed 40 percent of funding for the foundation's adult day health center last year, but that funding was restored by a court order.

Schwarzenegger's recent budget proposal would eliminate adult day care funding in March, taking $1.2 million from the Modesto program that serves seniors who have Parkinson's disease, are recovering from stroke or cancer, or dealing with other physical impairments.

The services are offered at Miller's Place in the DMC Foundation complex at 730 McHenry Ave.

"We are about the only organization in this area that is doing what we do," said Thomas Truax, chief executive officer of the foundation. "We need to keep that open. It is too critical to our community."

Fifty-two seniors are in the adult day health care program, where they take part in social activities, receive physical and occupational therapy, and are monitored by a nurse to detect health problems before they become an issue.

It helps families to continue caring for loved ones at home. If family members could not drop their loved ones at the center, some would have to stop working or place them in nursing homes.

The Alzheimer's program serves up to 30 people at a time, giving family members a break from the daily rigors of caring for a person with the disease. The $35-per-day fee charged to the family does not cover the program costs, but thrift store proceeds are making up the difference.

The DMC Foundation also provides childbirth, family, safety and diabetes education, operates the Lifeline emergency call service for seniors, runs the Club Fit Mall Walking program, and sponsors the Medical Outreach Mobile.

Because of the state's budget mess, Truax said it seems the foundation's programs have been under the gun since he started as CEO in June.

A caregiver speaks out

The governor's 2010-11 budget plan would eliminate Medi-Cal funding for 328 adult day health centers and 37,000 participants in the state. Losing the funding would not force the Modesto program to close, but it probably would not look the same, Truax said.

Audrey Spearman of Modesto has taken her 85-year-old mother to the center for 2½ years, while she pursues a master's degree in psychology. She believes the care has slowed the progress of her mother's dementia.

"Family caregivers have to work, and the cost of paying someone to take care of their loved ones is usually out of their reach," Spearman said.

As state funding for social services dries up, the foundation is developing new fund-raising efforts, such as the Memory Lane thrift store or a possible car donation program. The group also has annual fund- raisers, including the Endless Summer Beach Party and the Culinary Clash on March 25.

Truax said staff members are writing grant proposals for new services, which may include an outpatient mental health service for home-bound seniors.

"I am looking at all options," he said. "We all agree the state finances are a wreck and something needs to be done."

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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