News

Senior Services May Be Next On Budget Chopping Block

(AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)

(AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)

NEW YORK (CBS 2) – Senior citizens could be the next victims of New York City’s budget crunch.

Elder advocates fear cuts in programs could be dangerous for the seniors who heavily depend on them, and the cuts look to run deep, reports CBS 2’s John Metaxas.

Yvonne Walker is on the front lines of elder care in New York City. As a social worker with Services Now for Adult Persons, or SNAP, she visits clients like 82-year-old Maxwell Divinsky of Little Neck.

Walker was instrumental in getting Divinsky’s insurance company to pay for both the motorized wheelchair he needs to get around, and for home health care visits, two services he badly needs.

“I’m handicapped. I had polio, I have a paralyzed foot,” Divinsky said.

“I’m not giving up, because my client desperately needs services,” Walker said. “He wants to stay home.”

Walker’s ability to care for her social work clients, though, could soon be compromised by city budget cuts.

The Department for the Aging has reportedly responded to the mayor’s call to help close a $3 billion budget deficit by proposing to slash case management visits to seniors’ homes by 40 percent.

That means there’d be fewer visits by Walker to Divinsky’s home.

“People would be at risk – their lives would be at risk, their health would be at risk,” Walker said. “It’s just very sad, a very sad situation.”

A spokesman for the department would not discuss specifics, as no cuts have yet been finalized, but he did issue a written statement.

“We looked at our entire portfolio of senior services to identify reductions that impact the fewest number of seniors,” Christopher Miller, director of public affairs for the Department for the Aging, said.

Walker said the city should think very carefully before cutting vital case management.

“You just want to shout it from the rooftops. Seniors are so helpless, especially the ones that live alone,” she said. “We are the only ones that they can turn to for help.”

“Please don’t cut – it’s absolutely necessary,” Divinsky said.

To grow old in New York City is increasingly complex these days. Social workers can help, but there are already waiting lists to get one. The fear is that if there are significant cuts, people like Divinsky could fall through the cracks.

The proposed cuts come on top of the closure of 29 senior centers throughout the city, as well as cuts to other senior services.