During the state budget crisis in 2009, one stroke of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pen eliminated funding for an obscure program that helped seniors and disabled adults live independently in Stanislaus County.
Susan Deshais, 76, of Riverbank was among 100 people who lost the help they received from the Area Agency on Aging’s Linkages Program.
For her, the program worked.
The program’s case managers made sure that her medical needs were met and arranged for other services to help her live safely at home.
Deshais’ case manager called her once a month, arranged for a dentist to fit her with dentures free of charge and made sure she had diabetic supplies, a walker and grabbers for picking up hard-to-reach items.
She also was able to get acupuncture to relieve the chronic pain from a severe neck injury. A case manager visited her apartment every three months to ensure it was free of trip hazards and other problems.
Deshais said she has felt lost since the case manager stopped calling. She has osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and the long-term effects of a toboggan accident near Sonora decades ago, which required surgery to fuse vertebrae in her neck.
“Every day, you are under pressure and you feel depressed,” she said. “You don’t know how much (the program) helped.”
Deshais and other program participants are not eligible for the similar Multipurpose Senior Services Program for elderly people who are more frail. The goal was to help clients live independently, so they are not placed in nursing homes at greater expense to the state.
Case workers also provided a link to home-delivered meals, transportation, in-home care, home repairs and a host of other services.
“I think we have lost an option,” said Jill Erickson, program manager of the Stanislaus Area Agency on Aging.
She said the loss of $264,000 in funding required the agency to stop the service and cut two case manager positions. When a vision-impaired woman recently called the office for help with subsidized housing paperwork, Erickson could only try to guide the woman over the phone.
“She would have been a perfect candidate for Linkages,” Erickson said.
Deshais, a native of Turkey, married an American serviceman who was stationed in her home country and they raised a family in the United States. He worked for General Motors in Fremont, while she was employed by a Silicon Valley computer-chip maker and other employers.
After her husband died in 1993, she lived in Turlock for more than 20 years and was a hospice volunteer. Most of her children live out of state.
Deshais has lived four years in Riverbank’s Willow Pointe Apartments, where her subsidized rent is $211 a month. The rest of her $934 a month in Social Security is spent on food, utilities, prescriptions and clothes from a second-hand store.
Volunteers try to fill the gap for the clients. But Medi-Cal hasn’t approved the acupuncture to relieve the pain in her neck and shoulders. The treatments were stopped in May. “It is a sad situation,” Deshais said. “They know I paid my tax dollars when I was working, so why are we not getting this benefit?”
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at 578-2321.
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