Tag Archives: disabled cuts

State Legislature restores cuts for disabled services


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


It was a reversal of fortune.

A $120 million cut to the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) would have left programs shorthanded, officials said. But the state legislature eliminated the threat and voted unanimously to fully restore what was lost.

The Assembly voted last week to appropriate $90 million for OPWDD. That was in addition to $30 million already restored during the budget process. The Senate approved the funds the next day.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, an OPWDD advocate, has worked closely with organizations such as the Queens Centers for Progress and said the need for services is “enormous.”

“There’s no reason to penalize this community, their families and their caretakers,” she said.
When the cuts were officially made earlier this year, Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the hardest part in passing the budget was accepting the OPWDD reductions.

“After passing the budget, we committed to doing whatever necessary to restore it,” he said. “This affects real people and real jobs.”

Goldfeder said he has seen firsthand how the cuts affect the disabled and their families even though he has been chair of the Autism Retention Committee for just a few months.

“It’s painful,” he said. “There’s no better role for the government to protect its citizens than the restoration of these cuts.”

The total $120 million restoration will go directly to facilities that provide services to the developmentally disabled, Goldfeder said.

Although the restoration went through, OPWDD funds still need to be increased in order to provide the best care, officials said. After an initial cut several years ago, OPWDD has seen no increase in funding.

However, Goldfeder said last week’s budget reversal was just a first step, and that there is a bright economic outlook for the future.

“This is the first place we have to look to restore a lot of the cuts that have taken place over the years,” he said.

 

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After budget cuts, legislative package aims to help disabled


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


In the wake of a significant budget cut to programs for developmentally disabled people, lawmakers are seeking ways to provide such individuals with more security.

A budget amendment enacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo cut 4.5 percent of state funding for organizations that help disabled individuals live healthy and independent lifestyles. Now, advocates both in and outside of the governor’s administration are fighting for legislation intended to protect the quality of support and services for these individuals.

“This legislative package will work to help remove unnecessary and discriminatory barriers that prevent many people with disabilities from living well-deserved self-reliant lives,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder, chair of the Mental Health Subcommittee on Autism Retention.

One of several bills in the package is the People with Developmental Disabilities Restoration and Reinvestment Act of 2013. It would appropriate up to $90 million to fully restore state funding to services for people with developmental disabilities.

The bill would tap savings to implement an agenda focused on services for individuals, community integration and more. The legislature would make up for funds not covered by the savings through a contingency appropriation.

Another bill in the package would amend the state’s Human Rights Law to require state and local government facilities to remove barriers which limit access to transportation or government services and buildings.

An additional bill would establish an advocacy program to advise individuals about their rights and responsibilities. Other bills entail access to sign language interpreters, housing preferences for tenants with limited mobility, eliminating discriminatory practices and more.

“This legislative package will provide the necessary state funding to improve the behavior and growth of individuals with developmental disabilities,” Goldfeder said. “There has been significant progress in achieving mental and physical health parity in New York State.”

The Assembly and the Senate will vote on the package in the coming weeks.

 

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Disabled cuts fight not over


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

The State Legislature recently voted to restore funds through its budgets to disabled programs. But with negotiations still on the horizon, the battle isn’t over.

“With so many Queens families continuing to struggle during these tough economic times, we must do everything we can to ensure New York State has programs in place to help people in need,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

The assembly budget proposal would restore $120 million to not-for-profit organizations that work with developmentally disabled individuals, and an additional $20 million to maintain state-operated mental health services. The Senate proposal also would restore $120 million.

Hundreds of organizations citywide tailored toward developmentally disabled individuals could be subject to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget amendments that will result in a $240 million cut in funding, effective April 1, if an accord between the the executive and legislative branch is not reached.

Charlie Houston, executive director of the Queens Center for Progress (QCP), said that with a cut like the one being proposed, there is “no way” that the center’s services wouldn’t be affected.

“We would have to lay staff off,” he said. “There’s no way we could avoid that.”

A main issue concerning administrators of these organizations, elected officials and disabled individuals is losing members of the “family” they have created in their respective programs.

“I love being here,” said Alan Rosen, a participant in the day program at The Shield Institute. “I don’t want [my aide] to leave, I like her so much.”

Groups such as QCP and The Shield Institute work towards helping disabled individuals live a progressive lifestyle, becoming more active and independent. Each day, they have different activities such as painting and cooking, and also visit different sites throughout the community.

These daily programs and trips outside of the facilities are the ones that could potentially get the ax if administrators are forced to let go of staff. Many patients require constant supervision and care, and without staff, that consistency could become unavailable.

“It would be a movement back towards custodial kind of care, rather than community integration,” said Houston. “It’s a real step backwards.”

Houston also said they may have to close certain programs for weeks at a time.

“What it would come to, for safety reasons, is they’ll just plop them in front of a TV day in and day out,” said Margaret MacPherson, whose brother, Thomas Hatch, 65, goes to QCP. “[But] it’s so important for them to see that life goes on outside of those four walls.”

Hatch lives with eight other people, all of whom need around-the-clock supervision due to different medical issues. MacPherson fears that without an adequate amount of staff, they may lose some of this supervision.

“These people cannot speak for themselves,” she said. “I see that there is absolutely not a nickel of surplus money, and I’m just heart sick for them.”

She said that the QCP staff does a job that is not so pretty, but they remain the loveliest and finest people.

“I’ve been concerned [about the budget] before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this concerned,” she admitted.

There will be a three-way negotiation between the assembly, senate and governor, projected for some time next week, which will determine how much money will officially be restored.

“This isn’t a matter of agencies taking cuts,” said Houston. “It’s going to affect people – a lot of people.”

 

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