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Question on Funding and the Older Blind Program

In my area, Southeastern Washington State, the state has cut back the funding for the independent older blind program which I find disturbing. I have only allowed to work with clients for three visits which is not enough to teach them the new technologies available to them. In our state, being 55 and older is considered not employable which I also find disturbing because most people I know are working into their mid-seventies and some into their early 80s. Do you have any suggestions to obtain funding for agencies such as mine to be able to work with these seniors and keep them abreast of the latest technology without doing it for free. I often help my clients for free because they need further training. Thank you, Holly Kaczmarski


Stephanie Jensen's picture

Are you contracting with the OIB program or are you working for the OIB program? Also, if your clients apply for VR, there isn't an age limit. If someone wants to go back to work, VR needs to help them.
Steve Kelley's picture

This will not help with your search for funding but I recall pointing out to state legislators the annual cost of residential nursing care approx $65K in our state annually vs the cost of training and basic AT like a video mag to keep someone independent at home. Huge savings helping people stay independent at home longer--does anyone have more solid stats on the long-term cost to taxpayers from cutting back these services?
B.J. LeJeune's picture

Steve, I know at one point Tom Langham from Wisconsin I think, went to their state legislators with the same argument. He had gathered some research for his state that I tried to get from him before he retired, but I think in the stress of getting things wound up for retirement he wasn't able to put his hands on it. However, I believe he had some success using that argument. I am sure from a national perspective, research on the cost of long term health care by state must exist somewhere. The problem is that most people are not put in long term care because of vision loss alone. It may be that more often there is some health or cognitive issue that swings the balance. However, we just don't know. I think we need to be careful that we report these things accurately. At one point there was a justification that O&M would save millions of dollars in health care for people who experienced broken hips, but not all broken hips are the result of vision loss, even when the person has vision loss. It is really difficult to say that, for example, 4 out of 10 people receiving OIB services would have gone to nursing homes if they had not received those services.
Kim Canaan's picture

In the Older Blind program in Washington we provide independent living services to people that are over 55 with a vision impairment. This program’s services are based on client assessments and goals which determines the number of instructional visits provided. If the client has a goal to return to work these clients will be referred to the state’s VR program. The VR program has no age restriction as long as the client meets the program requirements.
Stephanie Jensen's picture

I am wondering about your state cut backs on the Older Blind program. I don't know that that nationally that the funding has been reduced. Did they just reduce your funding? What are they doing with the money that was cut? Is it going to a different agency? Do they need it for administration?
Kim Canaan's picture

Our funding was not reduced at the federal level. In years past, our state agency provided Social Security reimbursement dollars to our Older Blind budget. This is no longer available.