Tag Archives: developmental disabilities

Op-ed: Fast-food wage hike could harm New York health care industry


| oped@queenscourier.com

Op-Ed

BY CHARLES HOUSTON

Gov. Cuomo has established a wage board within the state Department of Labor to consider raising wages of workers in the fast-food industry to $15 per hour. Hearings held by the wage board have included compelling testimony from fast-food workers about how difficult it is to survive on the earnings typical of that industry.

As executive director of Queens Centers for Progress (QCP), a nonprofit providing a comprehensive range of services to children and adults with developmental disabilities for 65 years, I have firsthand knowledge of another group of people whose earnings make it difficult-to-impossible to make ends meet: our direct care staff.

More than 400 of QCP’s 600 staff members have direct, hands-on responsibilities for the people we serve. They dress, feed, bathe, toilet and provide daily care to people with significant disabling conditions. As part of their jobs they must go through background checks and extensive training. There are thousands of similar staff doing similar work across New York State.

The salaries we are able to pay staff are determined, and limited, by the operating rates available through our government funding sources, primarily Medicaid. We cannot raise the price of a product or service to generate more income. Our starting salaries for direct care staff are several dollars per hour less than the $15 target being discussed for fast food workers.
We already have difficulty filling direct care openings, and these positions turn over at a high rate. Many staff who find this work rewarding are forced to choose other jobs for purely economic reasons, thereby depriving the people in our programs, who have come to know and depend on them, of a familiar, caring presence. Increasing the wages of fast food workers alone to $15 would only make this situation worse.

However deserved it may be, a significant increase in wages for fast-food workers, while ignoring other hardworking but low-paid employees in the developmental disabilities field, would have a terribly negative impact on services to some of New York State’s most vulnerable citizens. It would increase the likelihood that someone considering a direct care job would not take it in the first place. It would increase the likelihood that existing staff would leave their job for a fast-food position because the wage difference was too great to ignore.

It would truly be a case of unintended consequences, where something done in a desire to help one group of people would make matters worse for others. This is not sound public policy.

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Dismal budget has disabled distraught


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The Shield Institute taught Sui Chan to walk and talk. Now she fears budget cuts may take away from the program she calls her lifeline.

The organization for the developmentally disabled, along with over 600 others citywide, are currently subject to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget amendments that will result in a $240 million cut in funding, effective April 1.

“The Shield is where I find my voice,” said Chan, 52, through an electronic speaking device. “I am asking [Cuomo] to not cut the services that I receive because, to be honest, my life depends on it.”

Programs for developmentally disabled individuals were also victim of budget cuts three years ago and have since received no increase in funding. Between that slash in funds and the current one, it amounts to a $400 million loss.

Groups such as The Shield Institute aim towards helping these people live a progressive lifestyle, becoming more active and independent. Each day, they have different activities such as painting, cooking and exercising. Patients also meet with physical therapists, speech therapists and psychologists.

Officials fear with the looming spending slashes, their staff may have to take the fall.

“We have people that have complex needs,” said Dr. Susan Provenzano, executive director at The Shield. “We pride ourselves on being able to provide good, quality service, and this would put a strain on that ability.”

Louise Young’s 55-year-old brother, Fred Lotti, has been going to The Shield Institute’s day program for 30 years. Young said Lotti, who has cerebral palsy, throughout his entire life, he has not been left alone for even five minutes.

“He needs, what I call, a shadow,” said Young. “They need to dress him, prepare his food, drive him places. If they start making cuts, these people are not going to be able to function.”

Genevieve Murphy, an aide at The Shield Institute, said that after she told her group about the cuts, they all became very concerned.

With Murphy’s help, the group compiled a letter to send to Albany, urging Cuomo to reconsider the budget proposal.

“Just take a second to close your eyes and imagine yourself not being able to walk, eat by yourself, or communicate what you feel,” they said in the letter. “We are just asking you to please think twice.”

 

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Cuomo’s proposed cuts to developmentally disabled would be ‘devastating’


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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.

 

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Star of Queens: Anna Marie Neubauer


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Anna Marie Neubauer

Anna Marie Neubauer
Volunteer

Dancing Dreams

Community Involvement:

Seventeen-year-old Anna Marie Neubauer has been a volunteer at Dancing Dreams, an organization that helps little girls with developmental disabilities learn to dance, for six years.

“It’s just something I love to do,” said Neubauer, who acts as a “helper” for an 11-year-old Dancing Dreams participant named Monica. Every week, Neubauer attends dance sessions with Monica where she assists her with twirls, bends and lifts. Dancing Dreams was started by Joann Ferrara, a physical therapist who created the program after a young patient expressed desire to become a dancer.

Personal:

Neubauer is a senior at Archbishop Molloy High School. She lives in Whitestone with her parents and older brother, a student at Loyola University in Maryland. When she is not at school, Neubauer enjoys spending time with her friends and going skiing. Neubauer did not have any dancing experience prior to Dancing Dreams.

Challenge:

Neubauer feels that volunteering has no challenges, just rewards. “I enjoy [participating in Dancing Dreams]” said Neubauer. “It’s helped me grow a lot, and it fulfills me to see how just a little bit of help can help these girls.”

Favorite Memory:

The recitals are Neubauer’s favorite part of Dancing Dreams. “I love seeing the looks on the girls’ faces when their dreams are coming true,” said Naubauer, who also said that her dancer, Monica, has made volunteering for Dancing Dreams a wonderful experience.

Inspiration:

Neubauer first discovered Dancing Dreams when she was a patient of Ferrara’s, and has been volunteering ever since. Her main inspiration, however, comes from the girls themselves. “[The girls] are my inspiration,” said Neubauer. “To see their hard work – they look so beautiful doing it.”