DES MOINES, Iowa — Mike and Merry Gerzema say the pandemic is forcing Medicaid coverage to buckle at the knees.

“Shock, fear, what do we do next?,” asked Merry Gerzema whose 31-year-old son has a life-long intellectual disability. She added, “We worked long and hard to get our children into some sort of independent living that will help them be as independent as they can be without mom and dad and it feels like all of that has been slowly crumbling.”

Their son, Tim Gerzema had lived in an assisted living group home with three other roommates in Johnston with Independence until last Thursday. “Last Thursday we were contacted and told they were suspending daily living services at our house for a minimum of four weeks,” said Merry.

Candeo Iowa is the provider and told the Gerzema’s the workforce shortage left them without anyone to care for their son. “Some of the staff are out with COVID. They’ve had infections in some of the other houses so that has reduced the staff that are available,” said Mike.

One of Tim’s roommates was able to quickly find help through Mosaic in Central Iowa. “We rely on Medicaid funding. Ninety-eight percent of our expenses come from Medicaid funding,” said Executive Director Brandi Bretthauer. Mosaic group home staffing and similar agencies nationwide are losing workers to higher-paying jobs. “Our current competition is fast food and retail and that creates additional burden to our workforce,”said Bretthauer.

A unique option that Mosaic provides is partnering with a host family that takes in an individual to provide service a Medicaid provider typically would. Bretthauer said, “It doesn’t rely on much workforce and people open their hearts and their homes and provide the service in their home.”

The Gerzema’s are actively searching for a place to provide their son the assisted independence he needs but they hope state and national leaders can recognize the importance of the jobs needed to care for their son. Merry said, “Who would be doing this if I weren’t here? If we weren’t here to help advocate who would be watching out for him?”

The Gerzema’s have appointments with providers and are also speaking with some to see if they can help staff their son’s former group home. If you are interested in becoming a host-family with Mosaic visit their website at www.mosaicinfo.org/centraliowa