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.”