PORTLAND, Ore. — An audit says a state-funded program that aims to help elderly low-income people and those with disabilities get care to stay in their homes has failed to fully protect them from potential harm.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports (https://goo.gl/RiJHvp ) the audit by the Secretary of State’s Office was released Tuesday.

The report said the Oregon Department of Human Services should take immediate action to improve oversight to guarantee “the safety and well-being” of those using the program.

The multi-million dollar program pays workers, often relatives, to provide home health care.

The audit says nearly 15,500 people use the program yet the state department has failed to ensure they’re getting the help they need.

Ashley Carson Cottingham, who directs the state’s programs for aging and people with disabilities, disagreed with the audit, saying the program is headed in the right direction.

“People are receiving the long-term services and support that they need in this program,” Carson Cottingham said. “We do have times where we make mistakes and we always have room to improve but this is the right program for Oregonians.”

The program, started in 1981, allows patients to hire a home worker to help them with daily needs, covering everything from eating and dressing to cleaning and medication management.

To qualify, they must be at least 65 or have a physical disability, be eligible for Medicaid by earning no more than $2,205 per month for single applicants, need daily assistance and be able to act as their own employer.

The program is part of Oregon’s emphasis on aging in place.

This is the first time the Audits Division has examined the program, said Sheronne Blasi, Oregon’s audit manager.

The months-long review included interviews with more than 70 interviews with case managers, policy analysts and others involved in the program and a review of just over 140 case files.

One of the biggest problems, Blasi said, is that state case workers are overloaded.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com