Tag Archives: OPWDD

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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Program directors say restored funds for disabled not enough


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The looming cuts to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) have been restored, but only by a fraction.

Initially, the state’s budget called for a total slash of $240 million from OPWDD services, but the final budget gave back $30 million. Program administrators say this is still not enough.

“The challenge our industry faces is a growing demand with a diminishing revenue stream. The work force now has to shrink,” said Peter Smergut, executive director at Life’s WORC.

Life’s WORC, a program geared towards assisting developmentally disabled individuals lead active and independent lifestyles, has a 76 percent cost of labor. Now, because of the cuts, they have had to “freeze” employee positions, not fill other positions and also look to reallocate resources in ways they would not have traditionally thought to do, Smergut said.

Disabled services organizations rely heavily on funding from OPWDD, and without it, some groups find it difficult to make any concrete adjustments in their spending.

“It’s tough to be in an environment when you’re relying on this funding, and the funding is constantly changing,” said Dr. Susan Provenzano of The Shield Institute.

Initially, the State Senate and the Assembly voted to restore $120 million to the OPWDD budget. Assemblymember Nily Rozic said that along with community groups such as the Queens Centers for Progress, they attempted to bring the necessity of a full restoration to the forefront.

“Through subsequent negotiations, we were able to secure $30 million for these critical services, but not nearly enough,” Rozic said. “I will continue to speak out on the need for a greater restoration to avoid program closures, staff layoffs and irreparable harm to some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Rozic did say however that the state budget provides a balanced spending plan that addresses fundamental issues facing families, including increasing the state’s minimum wage and providing schools with the funding needed for children to receive a quality education.

“Any cuts are devastating,” said Provenzano. “We have to provide stability. We have to constantly be advocating, and it leaves a lot of questions for us approaching the future.”

 

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


| 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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