Affected families statewide will travel to capitol next week to be heard
Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) today renewed his call for concerned residents to join him in opposing Governor David Paterson’s call for a ten percent across-the-board cut in funding to the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD).
“We all know things are tighter than ever, and the state should step up and do its part, however pick-pocketing the disabled to fill a budget gap is not the answer,” Ball said. “This measure, if accepted, would endanger the health and safety of our extremely vulnerable population and destroy the quality of care for the neediest among us.”
During next week’s extraordinary session of the legislature, Ball will join organizations who support the developmentally disabled as well as parents and family members at a vigil outside the Governor’s office calling for a halt to the cuts proposed in Paterson’s current Deficit Reduction Plan (DRP) that Ball says will devastate residential and day services, result in staff layoffs as well as the potential closure of some day facilities.
“The disabled face the loss of income from proposed cuts to their monthly SSI checks and reductions or even the complete loss of in-home services and supports that keep them out of institutions,” said Susan M. Dooha, Executive Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY. “Further, when they turn to the community-based organizations that help them piece together the array of supports they need to keep their equilibrium at home, those organizations will have a diminished ability to help them because of budget cuts they face themselves. It is imperative that lawmakers find an alternative; many worthy options have been put on the table.”
Ball says that the proposed cuts in state OMRDD funding mean the loss of matching federal Medicaid funds as well.
“I believe there are dollars that can be cut out of New York’s budget that do not place the lives of people with developmental disabilities in jeopardy and in addition there are revenue strategies that can work,” said Ann M. Hardiman, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies. “Last year, OMRDD took cuts that were difficult but agencies worked hard to manage them. At this point we are down to the bone.”
Ball, who months ago presciently voted against the irresponsible state budget which created the huge deficits now facing New York taxpayers, now opposes Paterson’s DRP. Ball’s concerns are that the harsh DRP slashes funding for services provided by nonprofit agencies for people with developmental disabilities; cuts health care for seniors, which has already been cut in the state budget six times in the past three years; and contains cuts to home care and long-term-care services, and nursing homes that Ball calls disastrous.
“Assemblyman Greg Ball understands and appreciate our state’s current fiscal crisis, but knows that Governor Paterson’s current proposed cuts to developmental disability services will devastate the OMRDD service delivery system, compromise the quality of care delivered to individuals with developmental disabilities, shut down critical programs in the 99th Assembly District, and negatively impact the local economy, which is already suffering, by creating job loss for support professionals and other key members of the workforce in our field,” said Susan Limongello, Executive Director of Putnam ARC. “I urge Hudson Valley residents to join Assemblyman Ball in not accepting the Governor’s 10 percent across-the-board cuts to mental hygiene programs, which is critical to the well being of individuals with developmental disabilities and the staff that work so hard to meet their needs.”
Richard Swierat, Executive Director of Westchester ARC, said that the DRP “will have a disastrous impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities in New York State.”
“Westchester ARC provides direct support for over 1,600 people in daily program and services that support them in community life,” Swierat said. “These people are highly vulnerable, requiring 24-hour care and oversight. New York has made a public and legal commitment to protect and provide supports for each of these individuals. A 10 percent cut in budgets that support such vulnerable people, which have already been cut, is not the answer. Solutions to the fiscal crisis must balance priorities based on the risks to safety and health and real constitutional responsibilities of government. A cut with a 10 percent impact will create situations in which people will not be properly supervised, health and safety will be secondary and New York State will violate its legal constitutional obligations. The days of institutionalization may not be too far away if these cuts implemented.”
The vigil will continue on Monday, November 16th and Tuesday, November 17th while the Governor and Legislature consider proposed budget cuts, as family members and people with developmental disabilities attempt to personally convey to the Governor and legislators the devastating effect that the Governor’s proposed budget cuts will have on persons with developmental disabilities and their families across New York State.
“I am terrified at the prospect of a 10% cut in OMRDD funding,” stated Margaret Puddington, the mother of a son who has significant disabilities. “A cut that deep will draw blood: staff will be laid off, programs will be overcrowded, supervision and oversight will vanish. My son will no longer get the care he requires. We families will do anything to avoid the wreckage that a 10% cut would produce. We believe it is unconscionable—and unforgivable—to compromise the well-being of our beloved children by imposing the same level of cut on OMRDD’s services that are essential to survival, as on other, nonessential state services that are basically administrative.”
In the past few years New York State’s developmental disabilities services system has been significantly scaled back. Organizations including the Coalition of Families for Direct Support Staff, Parent to Parent of New York State, the Self Advocacy Association of New York, the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York State, the New York State Council of Catholic Charities, the New York Association of Emerging & Multicultural Providers and the New York State Rehabilitation Association joined Ball last year in opposing $87 million in cuts to the system. This year, the proposed reductions would lead to the elimination of vital programs and services and an estimated workforce reduction of more than 10,000 employees, many who are lower paid direct support staff responsible for the health and safety of the individuals in their care.
“These cuts put our services at risk, and they many of them will cease to exist if the proposed slashes come down,” said Rose Rothe, Executive Director of SPARC of Yorktown. “As funding changes trickle down to our voluntary non-profit agency, our youth with developmental disabilities will be directly affected, as will their families. The reduction in services will eliminate respite opportunities for parents and appropriate social and recreational programs that these youth are otherwise without. These are real changes in our teens’ daily lives with a direct loss of meaningful ways to spend their free time and professional intervention to overcome the personal challenges they face.”
“Governor Paterson’s proposal would cut $160 million out of services for persons with developmental disabilities, most of which is federal, not State funds,” said Theresa Pirraglia, Board of Directors Member at the Foundation for Educating Children with Autism. “Proven alternatives have been offered to these devastating cuts and they are not being considered. Parents and families have fought too long for individuals to live safely and cost effectively in the community. Cuts of this magnitude put the safety of our most vulnerable citizens at risk.”
“The reductions in these services would be devastating, especially to residential and day services, and could result in staff layoffs as well as the potential closures,” Ball added. “Going forward, I will continue to challenge the Governor’s proposed cuts to the OMRDD and will urge my Assembly colleagues to do the same, and I hope families from across the state will join us at the vigil, and those who are unable to do so can write or call their representatives to let them know that we can ill-afford these cuts.”
Ball is asking those who are unable to travel to Albany to help fight these proposed cuts by contacting Assemblyman Herman Farrell, Chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, by writing to him at ‘LOB 923, Albany, NY 12248′ or calling (518) 455 – 5491.