Health and Human Services

Intergenerational care facility pilot program considered

The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Feb. 7 on a bill that seeks to incentivize creation of on-site child care services in the state’s nursing and assisted living facilities.

Sen. Anna Wishart
Sen. Anna Wishart

LB1178, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart, would create the Intergenerational Care Facility Incentive program to provide one-time startup grants. Under the bill, nursing and assisted living facilities that are certified for Medicare or Medicaid would be eligible for a grants of up to $100,000 to provide child care in their facilities, which could be used for structural updates, outside campus space, equipment and supplies.

The bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate with a statewide association representing long-term care facilities and other stakeholders to develop the program. Facilities that have been cited for providing a substandard quality of care during their most recent survey would not be eligible for the program.

LB1178 states legislative intent to make a $300,000 one-time general fund appropriation to DHHS for the pilot program.

Wishart said incentivizing the co-location of senior long-term care and child care would benefit senior residents by providing vital social interactions, while at the same time improving children’s social and personal development. The recent global pandemic led to “significant” isolation among seniors, she said, and highlighted the need for such programs.

“It is a simple concept — providing child care in a nursing facility and creating opportunities for shared activities between seniors, citizens and children,” Wishart said.

Holly Hill, owner and director of Trucks N Tiaras Intergenerational Academy in North Platte, testified in favor of the measure. She said a child mentored by an adult is 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to use alcohol and 52% less likely to skip school.

“These interactions are vital for developing strong communication skills, a sense of community and a positive attitude toward aging,” she said. “Learning alongside seniors will help children see beyond their years and their own small worlds.”

Kierstin Reed, president and CEO of LeadingAge Nebraska, spoke in support of the bill. Intergenerational programming can be especially beneficial for adults with dementia, she said, by providing an opportunity for them to teach children things they still know how to do, such as folding towels or sorting items.

“Young children support older adults with dementia because they live in the moment,” Reed said.

Also testifying in favor was Sara Howard, policy advisor for First Five Nebraska. Approximately 12% of Nebraska child care facilities have closed since 2019, she said, and innovative programs like the one outlined in LB1178 could help alleviate the state’s resulting child care provider shortage.

“Three out of four children in Nebraska have both parents working,” Howard said. “Child care truly is a workforce issue.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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