BY DENISE ROMANO & MAGGIE HAYES
Carol Goldstein doesn’t know where to turn.
With the threat of budget cuts looming, she fears her autistic son will not get the services he so desperately needs.
Her son, and those living with developmental disabilities will be “devastated” by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts, say activists.
Advocates have been sending letters and holding protests to stop the cuts, which some say will reverse years of progress.
The proposed cuts, effective April 1, will strike $240 million from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) budget: Cuomo’s cuts taking $120 million, and the other half that is traditionally matched by the state, according to Peter Smergut, CEO of Life’s WORC.
“This is going to have a dire consequence,” said Smergut. “The repercussions are going to have an impact on the people that we support every day.”
“It makes me feel devastated. It kills me,” said Goldstein, of Bayside.
Life’s WORC, along with over 600 organizations citywide, aims to provide disabled individuals with services that facilitate an independent and productive lifestyle; now, the groups are deciding where to make cuts.
Additionally, federal funding that comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would slash $1.1 billion from total Medicaid funding sent to the state, which includes funding for OPWDD as well as other state agencies, amounting to “the largest funding cuts ever” according to the Coalition of Families for Direct Support Staff in Services for People with Developmental Disabilities, which has sent out an alert to supporters, contending, “Our services would be decimated.”
“Our family has been [in New York] for three generation, and now the state can’t take him?” said Goldstein. “Where does my child go?”
Smergut noted that there is not a lot of bureaucratic fat in his organization. “Where are our cuts supposed to come from?” he asked. “It’s people doing people work. It’s extremely frustrating.”
Additionally, OPWDD funding was not exclusively for people with developmental disorders, but for all kinds of other safety programs, according to Smergut, such as programs for drug and alcohol abuse.
“At the end of the day, all of our consumers are going to end up without the kind of support that they traditionally had,” he said.