Budget cuts may hurt Alzheimer's patients

June 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The governor is proposing $3 billion in additional budget cuts. It's a big number that perhaps can be best understood by looking directly into the eyes of the people who will feel that pain.

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"Her and I are going to be real friends," said Loraine Fountain, an Alzheimer's patient.

Eighty-six-year-old Fountain recalls her days as a switchboard operator. Not much of it makes sense because she has Alzheimer's disease. She's a patient at the Alzheimer's Services of the East Bay Center in Berkeley.

"I think I would strangle myself without the services of the Alzheimer's Services of the East Bay," said Lynn Fountain, Loraine's daughter.

The governor's proposed cuts would cost this non-profit about $1.4 million a year, mostly in MediCal reimbursements. Executive director Micheal Pope says it would end vital services.

"Physical therapy, occupational therapy, dental hygienist, podiatry, all of that would cease to exist," said Pope.

Shutting down the center would mean laying off about 55 employees, breaking the lease and cutting contracts with vendors. The center alone contributes about $1 million to the local economy each year.

The governor's wife, Maria Shriver, is an outspoken advocate for Alzheimer's patients. On Monday, her office simply said: "Despite these proposed cuts, the First Lady will continue to be a leading voice for individuals suffering from Alzheimer's."

A meeting was held Monday night to explain the cuts to patient's families. Many said they would have to quit their jobs or put loved-ones into more expensive state-run nursing homes.

"You don't have to have a degree to figure out that Alzheimer's Services of the East Bay annually is saving this state about $2 million," said Pope.

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