A parent’s view on funding for disabled services

Danielle Chase and Diane Cornell, officers of The Resource Center United Employees Association, delivered 60 hand-written letters from adults they work with to Sen. Cathy Young of Olean yesterday. They also delivered a handful of letters from union members asking lawmakers to restore $120 million to New Yorkers with disabilities in private, non-profit agencies. Gov. Cuomo proposed cutting that amount last month in his 30-day amendments. If those cuts go through, it also yanks $120 million in federal funding.
“I’m really glad we came,” said Chase. “We worry about our guys and what would happen to them if services were reduced.”
Chase works specifically on life skills to help the adults — some born with disabilities and others who suffered traumatic injuries — in the community.
Cornell said she thought it made a big difference to come to Albany to personally tell her lawmaker about what it’s like to support individuals with disabilities so that they can achieve maximum independence,  experience lifelong goals and enjoy quality of life. “If these cuts go ahead, we will do our best, but there is no way that those things can be achieved,” Cornell told Young. “Individualized services would be cut, community supports would be gone. Adults who are able to live at home, but get to go to a center during the day for services, most likely would stay in their homes all day.”
Chase and Cornell’s efforts were supported by many NYSUT advocates who sent messages to lawmakers through the Member Action Center.
One of those is Vinnie Lyons who, as a parent of a disabled adult, knows just how difficult any funding cut would be. His son, Matthew, was on a waiting list for 11 years before he got a spot in a Long Island group home two years ago.
“My son is 33 years old and lives with seven other residents in a group home with a caring staff. He also attends a day program and the transition has been great,” said Lyons, who taught on Long Island for years before coming to work for NYSUT.
“To my knowledge, Matthew was the last person placed in one of their residential facilities, as support from New York state has essentially remained flat the last four years, and now they are facing a serious 6 percent reduction. There are no new group homes being established on Long Island because of the lack of state funding, yet there are many aging parents who have been unable to find placement for their adult children,” Lyons said. Even if the funds are restored this time, Lyons and his wife are concerned about the lack of funding for people with disabilities.
“Maintaining continuity of staff is essential, as most of the clients don’t do well with change or disruption of their daily schedule,” Lyons said. “The state needs to recognize that the employees of these agencies have not received raises for several years, that they are dedicated individuals who care for their residents in a highly professional manner and that their work is essential and  has real worth. They deserve to be paid at a higher level of compensation than these agencies are currently able to do; the present rate of reimbursement they receive from the state is far too low.”

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