New York Senate Turning Its Back on People with Disabilities
People with disabilities and seniors from across New York State have been calling key Senators all week, urging them to support a provision in the budget which would create a new class of workers called Advanced Home Health Aides (AHHAs). Governor Cuomo and the Assembly each support versions of the AHHA proposal, and the Senate included a version in its one-house bill last year. Advocates for older adults, the Nurses Association, and home care providers all support this proposal. So what’s the hold up?
No, seriously, what’s the hold up?
The hold up is that, although the Senate included the AHHAs last year, and although a workgroup of stakeholders has had meetings for nine months hammering out the details, Senator LaValle, who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, seems to believe that not enough time has passed for people with disabilities to live in freedom. The workgroup has produced guidance specifying that the AHHAs are to receive a total of over 105 hours of training and must have at least one year’s experience working in home care, and that the supervising nurse cannot be required to assign any tasks which, in her judgment, will compromise the safety of the consumer. According to Senator LaValle’s aide, the Senator does not believe that these safeguards are sufficient to protect the safety of the consumer.
Consumers, including the Disability Community and the AARP, disagree. The stakeholder workgroup has discussed the issue of patient safety at great length, and is very clear that there are some areas which, for the safety of the consumer, the nurse absolutely cannot assign tasks to an AHHA. These include tasks involving: sterile field procedures; central line maintenance; administration of medication that is not routine; injections that are not routine or subcutaneous; and other tasks. There are some areas, however, in which a nurse may assign tasks, only if the nurse believes that the particular aide can perform them competently and safely. These include: routine administration of medication, including routine subcutaneous injections; operation of a ventilator; irrigating a mature and stable ostomy as an ongoing and customary part of care; and other specified tasks.
Allowing a nurse to assign these tasks to an AHHA means that people with disabilities, and older adults, will be able to live in their own homes rather than being forced into an institution or a nursing facility just to receive routine, ongoing, long term services and supports. Passage of the Advanced Home Health Aide part of the budget is a key support for our right to receive services in the most integrated setting possible under Olmsteadand the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Thanks to the hard work of many disability advocates across New York, Senator LaValle has gotten our message. The problem is that at this point, he is not willing to do anything about it.