Mark Zaccaria: Respite Care vs Political Posturing
As an avid follower of the activities of Representative James Langevin, I read with interest his recent release on the subject of Respite Care here in the Ocean State. I read it with interest, but also with a certain amount of approval.
The Congressman correctly highlights the aid rendered by the many uncompensated family caregivers here in Rhode Island, at least 114,000 by his count. All of us should celebrate the contributions made by these family members and friends of those in need of ‘round the clock care in an increasingly expensive world. Most of these important members of the health care chain became links in it due to circumstance rather than by choice. I know. For 28 years my wife, Ruth, and I were part of that team as we provided home care for our son Adam.
The eldest of our three children, Adam was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. It set our family on a path of gaining expertise about that syndrome which none of us ever planned on acquiring. Like the 114,000 Rhode Islanders the Congressman referenced in his release last week, though, Ruth and I did what we had to do. In fact, during the period of my business career when I was a corporate nomad we did it in several other states. None of them had programs or even formal support nearly equal to that we received when we got back here for good, ten years ago.
So I applaud my Representative in Congress for the focus on respite care he spotlighted in his recent release. It is a service to uncompensated caregivers that exists in this state but most certainly does not in many others. Respite care can also be a Godsend to parents, friends, or siblings who find themselves stretched to the breaking point. They can be recharged by a day-off from long term homecare duties. It frequently lets them return to the fray reinvigorated and better able to shoulder the load.
In reading my Rep’s account of his action in support of this cause, however, it was hard to miss a couple of glaring admissions. He wrote that he’d spent five years working to pass legislation to support respite care and he even referenced HR3248 of the 109th Congress, known as the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006. The bill was introduced in the House in September of 2005 by a New Jersey Rep. and it was passed in 2006 by both chambers and signed into law by President Bush on December 21st of that year. For the record, Congressman Langevin was one of this bill’s 84 co-sponsors in the House. Now, nearly 3 years after passage, he touts a grant of $200,000 for Rhode Island that has been secured under the legislation.
That amount, which averages out to just over $1.75 per Ocean State caregiver, will be split between three existing programs here. No doubt the money will be well spent to cover the on-going overhead expenses of keeping them running.
What I feel I do have to doubt is that this amount will be granted again at any predictable point in the future. It’s very nice that Mr. Langevin has brought home a couple slices of bacon, and chooses to trumpet that fact. It must mean that’s the best action on our behalf that he’s got to crow about right now. It also must mean that he has not set himself about assisting these important local programs with any kind of long term support that their managers could count on to help improve things for Rhode Islanders for years to come. Dare we ask why there was no talk in last week’s press release about expanding the availability of respite care as a direct result of the Congressman’s efforts?
They can’t all be home runs, of course, but it strikes me that our guy has tried to slip one past us with his recent puff piece on respite care. Right now the excess spending of past administrations has become the egregious and unsupportable spending of this one. It’s a time when I would have preferred to hear about how my Representative plans to assist in warding off the price inflation that looms on our horizon as a result. He seems to have voted in favor of every single one of the recent spending initiatives that have taken billion-dollar deficits and made them trillion-dollar deficits in less than a year. Can you help me understand how that’s a good thing for me, Congressman?
The saddest part of it all is that he must think we’re not watching. He must think he can get away with keeping his name in print with the legerdemain of an occasional misdirection press release while he attends to business as usual in Washington. As I said at the top, I’m watching. I bet you are, too.
Mark Zaccaria is a small businessman and former elected official who was Congressman Langevin’s GOP opponent in the 2008 election. Mr. Zaccaria plans to run again for the seat in 2010.