National expert: Question 1 can address Maine’s ‘home care crisis’

National expert: Question 1 can address Maine’s ‘home care crisis’

Stephen Campbell, data and policy analyst for PHI, the nation’s leading authority on the direct care workforce, spoke in Portland on Tuesday about the demographic changes and policy decisions that have led Maine to the brink of a “home care crisis,” and how Question 1 on November’s ballot can help.

“The population of people age 65 and over is growing exponentially here in Maine, but there is a declining population of working-age adults who can care for them and two thirds of the home care workforce leaves their jobs every year,” said Campbell. “Question 1 could provide the answer to this crisis.”

Campbell will also speak at the Maine Wisdom Summit tomorrow in Augusta.

Rhiannon L’Heureux, a former home care worker who now works at a nursing facility, described why she left the home care field, as well as the difficulty her family faced caring for her twin sister, left with a severe disability after an accident, in rural Maine.

“In the end, I just couldn’t afford to keep working for such low wages and I had to quit, like so many of our best home care workers do every year,” said L’Heureux. “It’s because I love my sister and because I loved my clients that I support Question 1.”

Abdullahi Ali, CEO of a home care agencies with offices in Portland, Lewiston and Augusta, agreed with Campbell’s assessment.

“The most difficult aspect of home care right now is how poorly we are able to compensate those who do this vital work for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Ali. “At the current rate, there’s no room to pay for training or advancement. Home care workers don’t get the respect and the career opportunities they deserve.”

Question 1 will guarantee that all seniors and Mainers with disabilities can access needed home care, paid for through a tax on the wealthiest 1.6% of individual income earners.

“With Question 1 we can chart a new path forward for a long-term care system for the 21st Century,” said Campbell. “That’s not just something we can do here in Maine. It could be the start of something much bigger, across the country.”

“We need to think creatively about how we can solve these problems so we can ensure that people are getting the care they need and that we’re well prepared for the future,” said Campbell.