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For Richard Stowell, the state’s decision to allow adult day centers that offer health care to continue operating under a new system called Community Based Adult Services is like being pardoned from prison.

“I was worried that when MediCal ended I would just be at home, period,” said the 70-year-old Santa Maria man who is legally blind and lives alone. “It’s just like being in a prison.”

Stowell visits the Wisdom Center three times a week for activities, exercise and health monitoring. The facility averages about 46 participants each day, with people coming all the way from Morro Bay and Lompoc. Approximately 30 percent come from the Five Cities area, according to Director Betsy Whitaker.

The facility, along with many of the approximately 300 other adult day health-care centers in the state, teetered on the brink of closure Dec. 1, 2011. But the center was able to transition to the new Community Based Adult Services (CBAS) program and is now thriving, Whitaker said.

“It’s really a happy ending for us and a good working relationship with CenCal Health,” Whitaker said of the organization that now administers publicly funded health care programs for low-income residents in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The relationship has done more than just allowing the Wisdom Center to continue operations. It has provided the means by which the center has begun to flourish.

Whitaker said many of the center’s past participants were able to qualify for continued care, and the new admission criteria have allowed the center to extend its services to people with

moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The new CBAS criteria include:

  • People who need nursing facility/acute level of care or above;
  • People who have been diagnosed with organic,  acquired or traumatic brain injuries or have chronic mental illness and need assistance with activities of daily living;
  • People who have moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia;
  • People with mild cognitive impairment or moderate Alzheimer’s disease;
  • People who are developmentally disabled who are current regional center clients.

Stowell was already a regular visitor to the Wisdom Center when the changes in qualifications were made.

“I get regular medical checks. I get my blood pressure and sugar levels checked,” said Stowell, whose disabilities were exacerbated by diabetes. “If they ended this thing, some people have places they could go. With me it’s home or the doctor’s office. There’s nowhere else to go.”

Stowell can’t drive or even walk to the center, so the Wisdom Center’s small fleet of buses that allows them to pick up participants is vital.

The center also acquired a contract with the Veterans Administration to provide care to veterans. Whitaker said the center is processing eight to 10 referrals for veterans. Under the ADHC system, the center would only see that many referrals in a year.

Whitaker said the changes in requirements have many people confused about whether or not they can qualify for care at the center. Clearing up some of that confusion has been the work of administrator Stacey Brown.

“We are educating and empowering the participants to let them know what they are eligible for,” Brown said. “Our focus is on quality of life. Each participant is special.”

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