In order for men and women who need assistance at home to avoid nursing home care or another more expensive and less ideal situation, they need support. If that support is not available and family are unable to step in, then safety becomes a major concern. California has often been on the forefront of social programs, but in some counties throughout the state, including Contra Costa, a backlog of social services cases means many of its residents are going without the necessary support they need.
A social worker must approve additional hours that might be needed through the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program throughout the state. However, if a social worker does not get out to a client’s home, then those hours are not approved and, as such, services will not continue to be provided.
The backlog isn’t relegated to a few small counties, but appears to be part of a larger problem affecting many regions across the state. In Alameda County, the backlog is at 16.2%. In Santa Clara County, it’s 14.5%. In Contra Costa County, it’s 31.5%. According to authorities, one reason for the increase backlog in Contra Costa County involves funding.
According to Fox2 out of the Bay Area, in a 2 Investigates article entitled, Thousands of backlogged cases in Bay Area home care programs:
“We don’t get enough money in the funding, and we have a huge cost in that funding in our county,” she [Director of the Contra Costa Adult and Aging Service Department, Victoria Tolbert] said. “The funding structure for Contra Costa County is connected to our tax revenue for our share of costs.”
Tolbert said the IHSS program was designed for when Contra Costa was a rural county. Since the Bay Area’s housing boom, there’s been an influx of people into Contra Costa – an influx it wasn’t prepared for.
“We’re not rural anymore…We don’t have enough social workers to do the assessments that are necessary,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert said her social workers average more than 300 cases each and her department has eight vacancies she’s looking to fill. She said filling vacancies is no easy task because Contra Costa is competing with better-paying positions on other counties.”
For the men and women, and their families, who struggle with their mobility, recovery, and basic everyday tasks, there’s little consolation. However, as the state has pushed the funding issue to the local county and municipality level, helping to alleviate some state-wide budget concerns, as population centers change and expand into what were once rural communities, these problems will likely continue to mount.
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