Newly formed CHANGE for Homecare planning to testify before Del. Joint Finance Committee
DELAWARE – A newly formed group advocating for people with complex disabilities will be making their voices heard before the Delaware General Assembly. CHANGE for Homecare is going to testify before the Joint Finance Committee next week to ask for improvements to the state’s private duty nursing program. “I wanted to reach out to other families to really help because I know the nursing shortage and care options for the medically complex community is a systemic issue,” said CHANGE for Homecare founder Kateri Morton.
Morton has a young son living with disabilities and health conditions. She says many Delawareans with wide-ranging disabilities rely on private duty nurses to make sure they’re getting the care they need at home. “These nurses that we depend upon are running the entire medical scenario on their own. They don’t have support staff,” said Morton.
The program is funded through Medicaid reimbursements. In Delaware those reimbursements for private duty nurses haven’t been raised in 16 years. Morton says because of this, those nurses are often the only line of defense when their patients are having a medical crisis. “They definitely don’t have an emergency response team available in two minutes or less, like a code team. When our medically complex children have a medical emergency, they manage the entire thing,” said Morton.
On top of that, Morton says many families who rely on private duty nurses are left without enough nurses to cover shifts and struggle to retain those nurses. That’s why CHANGE for Homecare is going to ask that those reimbursements be raised. “This is a medical necessity. Our community, within the past month, had three patients have near death experiences. One of those happened while there was no nurse staffing, and that patient was in the care of her 16-year-old sister,” said Morton.
Another front that the group is working on is building up their organization so they can focus both on policy change and supporting each other. “It’s essentially a full time job to coordinate all the care needs and resources that our medically complex individuals rely upon. So the benefit of this group is we have such a large foundation,” said Morton.
Morton says members of the group will be able to advocate for each others individual needs, on top of providing resources for family members who might need medical supplies or extra support. Plus, the group is partnering with Delaware Family Voices. Morton says that could open up the possibility for national support in the future. “By having a whole community to implement systemic change in addition to putting them in touch with, for instance, Delaware Family Voices, I really think this has a huge potential to serve this population,” said Morton.
47ABC did speak with Representative Ruth Briggs King on the phone tThursday. The Representative is part of the Joint Finance Committee. Rep. Briggs King tells 47ABC that the committee is prepared to hear the concerns of the groups testifying. She also says that the committee is working on a study to determine if the changes being asked for can be made. The Joint Finance Committee is happening on Wednesday, February 24th.