Brewster, N.Y. – (3/08/13) – Senator Greg Ball (R,C,I – Patterson) along with dozens of developmental disability organizations are urge Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to avoid a massive reduction in funding for programs and services to people with developmental disabilities.
The proposed state budget plans to cut funding to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) by 6% across the board, a $240 million cut or ($120 million state share).
“We should not and cannot be balancing the state budget on the backs of our most vulnerable population,” said Senator Greg Ball. “In a time when these services are needed and being used more than ever we should be increasing the funding and not slashing it.”
Senator Ball’s call was joined by dozens of others who had planned a press conference on Friday, but had to cancel due to weather. Those planning on participating were: the Arc of Westchester, Putnam ARC, Leake and Watts, YAI, Westchester Jewish Community Services, WIHD, Cardinal McCloskey Services, Opengate, Richmond Community Services, Community Based Services, Community Living Corporation, CP Westchester, Hudson Valley Region- Self Advocacy Association of NY, Abbott House, IAHD NY, Ability Beyond Disability and many others.
Over the past two years, the Arc of Westchester, the oldest and largest agency in Westchester County that serves children and adults who have developmental disabilities and their families, has been cut over $3 Million. The current proposed 6% project cut would remove another $2.2 Million from their budget. While Arc of Westchester has received over 9% in cuts, the number of people they serve has increased by 12%.
The Executive Director of the Arc of Westchester, Richard Swierat, said that a 6% cut would be detrimental for the growing population that relies on their services.
“The lives of our loved ones are at stake. Residential, day programs and teenage transitional programs are among those at risk of being impacted in the near future,” said Swierat in a letter. “In a time when demand for our services is on the rise – with increased autism diagnoses, expanded life expectancy and more families than ever turning to us for our life-transforming assistance – we cannot allow our government’s commitment to people with developmental disabilities to be weakened.”
The Executive Director of the Putnam ARC, Susan Limongello said that the cut would mean a $1.2 Million dollar cut to their services.
“Over the past three years, Putnam ARC has taken over $1 million in cuts. These newest cuts will directly impact the staff members who provide critical services to children and adults with developmental disabilities,” said Limongello. “We are anticipating reducing our workforce which will put the most vulnerable Putnam County residents at risk. These cuts could also have a life-changing impact for families who depend on Putnam ARC for vital programs and services.”
If passed by the New York State Legislature, the cuts will become effective April 1, 2013. This would put programs that support people with developmental disabilities statewide in immediate jeopardy.
“New York State touts itself as the model of progressive government. It is time it proves it, by restoring these unprecedented cuts for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities,” said Senator Greg Ball’s Special Needs Advisory Council Chairwoman Terry Pirraglia. “Our family members lives should not be put at risk in order to balance the budget. The safety and quality of life of New Yorkers with developmental disabilities should be the true bottom line.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Ability Beyond Disability, Tom Fanning said, “a 6% cut would be absolutely devastating. Quality of service and even basic health and safety will be compromised with a cut of this magnitude.”
Jacqueline Fowler, whose son has a developmental disability, said that the state of New York shouldn’t balance their budget by taking away vital services that her son uses every day.
“If, in the past 36 years, you have never been able to get out of bed on your own, or taken a shower on your own or even put on your own shirt, then you know what it is like to have a developmental disability and to be dependent on others to just start your day, let alone participate in all the other things that ‘typical’ people do without even thinking about them,” said Fowler. “So tell me again, which of those supports and services should my son Scott give up to balance the Governor’s budget?”
Paca Lipovac, the Vice President of Clinical and Supportive Services of Richmond Community Services, said that the cut would result in a $2.1 million cut from their services. Richmond Community Services provides support through its residential and day programs to people with severe multiple disabilities, who are not able to hold a job or advocate for themselves.
“The 6% cut by OPWDD will translate into $2.1 million for Richmond Community Services. This cut will result in decrease in staff and supports to our residents and day program participants,” said Lipovac. “Our residents fully depend on Richmond’s staff for 24 hours personal supports and their health and safety could be compromised if the 6% cut becomes a reality.”
Mohan Mehra, past President of The Arc of the United States and parent of a young man supported by The Arc of Westchester said, “the proposed 6% cut on top of the funding reductions in the past two years will significantly reduce services to some of New York’s most vulnerable children and adults. They deserve better. The Governor should take a more planned approach to finding any needed efficiencies in the system.”
For more information, please contact Joe Bachmeier at (845) 200 9716.