New assistance grants to help people with disabilities

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has announced five new demonstration grants aimed at helping recruit, train and retain direct service workers who provide personal assistance to people with disabilities who need help with eating, bathing, dressing and other activities of daily living.

Grants totaling nearly $5.6 million will be distributed to pay for the demonstrations, three of which will test offering health insurance benefits for workers to determine if that would help keep workers on the job.

"We need to find ways to attract and support caregivers who provide these vital services," Secretary Thompson said. "These additional demonstration projects will help us learn what actions are necessary to increase and stabilize this workforce."

A part of the President's New Freedom Initiative, the Demonstration to Improve the Direct Service Community Workforce will grant $1.4 million each to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the Home Care Quality Authority, a Washington state agency, and Bridges, Inc., a non-profit service agency in Indiana. Each of these grantees will be offering health insurance to direct service workers during the three-year demonstration. Grants of $680,000 each will go to the Arkansas Department of Human Services and Seven Counties Services, Inc., a service provider in Kentucky, for developing educational materials, training of service workers, mentorship programs and other activities.

"A compassionate and competent direct care workforce is an essential element of our community-based long term care system," CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., said. "These demonstrations will help determine if access to health insurance and other work incentives will attract and retain these workers."

In 2001, President Bush launched the New Freedom Initiative, which promotes the goal of removing barriers to community living for people with disabilities. Under this initiative, 10 federal agencies have collaborated to remove barriers to community living. Secretary Thompson established the HHS Office on Disability in October 2002 to lead HHS agencies in addressing the New Freedom Initiative.

More information about this program and the President's New Freedom Initiative is available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/newfreedom.

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