Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lifespan Respite Program Reauthorization Update

Thanks to Rep. Langevin(RI-2) and McMorris Rodgers(WA-5), the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2011(HR 3266) was introduced in late October. Since then, the bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and picked up seven additional bipartisan cosponsors.

This bill is a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006, which provides funding to states to establish coordinated systems to improve delivery and quality of respite services for caregivers.  Sixty five million family caregivers provide 80% of our nation’s long-term care, permitting loved ones to remain in their communities and avoid or delay premature admission to costlier institutional facilities. However, caregiving can be a stressful job and respite offers a short-term break to caregivers so that families remain healthy.  The particularly important thing to note about Lifespan Respite is that it supports caregivers “across the lifespan”--from disabled children to adults—so that families affected by MS regardless of their age would be eligible.

To hear a real world story of the toll that can be placed on families and the importance of respite care, watch this YouTube video of Kim who has lived with MS for over 30 years. She is testifying before the Texas legislature, asking them to protect and preserve funding for respite services for Texans. The Texas Legislature faced a $27 BILLION shortfall this spring, but partly due to Kim’s engagement in MS Activism and compelling testimony, the respite care program was one of the few human services programs that was not cut.

So far, thirty states and the District of Columbia have been able to start better coordinating respite services because of the Lifespan Respite Act of 2006. This is a great foundation but reauthorizing the program would help ensure that family caregivers get the support they need. Click here to take action today and ask your U.S. Representative to support reauthorizing the Lifespan Respite program.

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