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Langevin Announces Federal Funding to Benefit RI Family Caregivers

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Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), who has played a lead role in raising awareness about the value of respite care, announced today that Rhode Island will receive $250,000 to support families caring for aging or disabled individuals with special needs. The funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the State Division of Elderly Affairs (DEA) of the Department of Human Services, is available as a result of the bipartisan Lifespan Respite Care Act, which was coauthored by Langevin with former Congressman Michael Ferguson (R-NJ) and signed into law in 2006. Rhode Island has now obtained $519,000 from the program.

Secretary Steven Costantino of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, DEA Director Catherine Taylor and representatives from Respite Partner Agencies involved with administering the grant joined Langevin at the John O. Pastore Complex in Cranston today to address how the funds will increase access to short-term, or respite, care. This relief offers family members temporary breaks from the daily routine and stress of providing care to loved ones with special needs. It is critical for maintaining family stability and the health of the caregiver, while improving the quality and affordability of long-term care.

"Respite services offer a tremendous benefit to families by making it easier to care for their aging or disabled loved ones, and to our economy, by reducing the number of expensive out-of-home placements that raise costs within our health care system," said Langevin, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus in the House of Representatives. "Rhode Island is making great strides in improving respite assistance, and setting a national standard for other states to follow.

"I applaud Director Taylor and her partners for their tireless dedication to meeting this need and I am excited about the opportunities that this grant will create to give more families access to affordable care."

The agencies involved with the grant, which also include the Parent Support Network, the POINT and the Diocese of Providence, will use the funding to support a sustainable system of Lifespan Respite services called Carebreaks Rhode Island. When family caregivers require a break, whether for another obligation or for rest, they would be able to use the system to find a temporary place for their elderly or disabled relative to stay or to have a professional come into their home to help.

"Family caregivers provide an estimated $1 billion of loving, unpaid care each year to seniors, adults with disabilities, and children with special health care needs, and truly form the foundation of Rhode Island's community-based, long-term care system," said Taylor. "I'm delighted that these grant funds will provide much-needed respite support to this precious unsung resource."

This effort complements the state's Timebanks Initiative, established with prior grant money, which creates a network of volunteers to support each other. Caregivers give time to community causes and are linked into a network of volunteers who can help them provide for their family members with special needs.

"We are committed to rebalancing our Long Term Care system to provide more and better options--not the least of which is home care for our elderly, as well as children and adults with disabilities," said Costantino. "I know how vitally important this grant is, in advancing quality of life issues. Congressman Langevin has called family caregivers "our nation's silent heroes.' And they are. With this innovative grant, our nation's silent heroes right here in Rhode Island are provided with much needed respite that helps keep loved ones at home with their families."

"For over 25 years the Diocese of Providence has partnered with DEA to provide caregiver support and respite breaks for caregivers caring for elders," said John J. Barry, III, Secretary for Catholic Charities and Social Ministry. "This new grant will allow us to expand this program to eligible family caregivers caring for disabled loved ones of any age."

In addition to the $1 billion estimate for the state, in 2009, AARP estimated that family caregivers provide nearly $450 billion per year nationally in uncompensated care, a staggering statistic that exceeds annual federal and state spending on Medicaid. However, we could achieve greater savings, while allowing more patients to stay at home in the company of loved ones, if more families had access to respite services. Respite is the most frequently requested support service among the 65 million family caregivers nationwide, but nearly 90 percent do not receive it.

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