As a person with a lifelong severe disability, I know first-hand the value of California's progressive, consumer-driven homecare program (known as In-Home Supportive Services or IHSS). This program was created in the early 1970s to reduce expensive institutionalization for seniors and the disabled. Aside from being cost-effective, this program has an ever greater benefit of allowing consumers to live independently with dignity as contributing members of their communities, and be more integrated with their families.
The independence and quality-of-life provided by our homecare workers is invaluable. This was my motivation as a consumer-advocate for joining forces with SEIU in 1992 to fight for better wages and benefits for our careproviders, as well as program enhancements that included training such as CPR.
This proposal creates huge logistical issues such as providing replacement care for consumers while workers are training. It attempts to do so at a time when consumers and careproviders alike are already facing new federal overtime restrictions that are daunting to all involved.
Submitting the proposed ballot initiative in this fashion allows one of the most powerful unions in the U.S. to spend millions on political ads. Homecare consumers live below the poverty line and have no way to counter other than petitions like this.
Training for careproviders is already available through local county services called public authorities. In addition, a wealth of information is readily available through the state social services website (http://www.cdss.ca.gov/agedblinddisabled/PG3366.htm). But the state's 360,000 consumers (the majority of them cared for by at least one family member) are often best served by providing most training themselves or with family members. Each individual is unique, and generic training has been roundly rejected by consumers and advocates alike.
The proposed training is much broader in scope than would be necessary or practical for the large percentage of careproviders who perform only light housekeeping services. It is also potentially intrusive into consumers' autonomy of lifestyles with references to themes such as diet, nutrition, and "managing common chronic diseases".
Finally, the SEIU-UHW proposal seeks to create a standardized, one-size-fits-all treatment model of seniors and people with disabilities. This reverts back to the medical model that is characteristic of the institutional care that this program has historically and successfully prevented for millions. It is in direct contradiction to the principles of the Independent Living Movement that was the impetus for creating our states invaluable homecare program forty years ago.