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Advocates struggle to avert disaster

Advocates struggle to avert disaster

As advocates continue to scramble to avert a catastrophic blow to New York’s developmental disabilities service system, the pressure is building on legislators to move quickly to pass a budget reduction package to keep New York from running out of money. “Apparently in the interests of equity, Governor Paterson structured his budget reduction plan as a one size fits all. Nonetheless, a direct 10% cut to developmental disabilities programs will force most of the agencies statewide into default before mid year 2010,” Camp Venture’s Executive Director, Dan Lukens said. Speaking to a Senate hearing in Westchester on November 5, Lukens asserted that the cuts proposed were unsustainable and would result in widespread displacement of the state’s citizens with developmental disabilities.

Lukens’ comment at the November 5, hearing came after a day of testimony that included impassioned pleas from parents to save the services for their developmentally disabled children. On the same day, a crowd of more than a 1000 advocates, assembled in New York City in front of the offices of New York State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver. And, in Albany, a vigil in the Capitol’s War Room was initiated that lasted for 4 days.

“This legislation represents the most significant threat to the welfare of people with developmental disabilities of this state since Willowbrook,” Lukens said.

Parents and family members are urged to take immediate action before the vote.

According to officials from the IAC and NYSCRA, advocacy measures are apparently reaching the legislators. In a report published to the field from NYSACRA (The New York State Association of Community Residential Agencies) on Wednesday November 11, NYSACRA reported that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger and other Senator had heard the pleas of family members and others on behalf of our state’s citizens with developmental disabilities. Peter Pierri, the head of the Inter Agency Council of Developmental Disabilities agencies, however, warned that potentially devastating program cuts are still very much alive and that vigorous advocacy was needed to avert disastrous consequences.

An Extraordinary Session of the Legislature is scheduled for Monday November 16, and Tuesday November 17, to take up the matter of Governor Paterson’s Deficit Reduction Plan that would impose a 10% across the board cuts to a broad range of government supported programs including health care and education. Senate Democrats have thus far rejected the measure but support is growing for the quick action on the Governor’s proposal. Because of the matching federal funds, efficiencies to developmental disability programs would result in cuts that minimally were double the state’s savings. Moreover, once lost, these dollars would be very difficult to restore.

What can you do?

• Thank your Senator for opposing these cuts. Call (518- 455-2800 to get the district office number of your Senator)
Call the Democratic Leader John Sampson (718-649-7653) and Senate Finance Chair Carl Kruger (718-743-8610) Note that Senator Carl Kruger held the hearings and that Senator Morahan made an appearance at the vigil.

• Call your Assembly member Call (518-455-4100 to get the district office number)
Note that Assemblywoman Jaffe made an appearance at the vigil.

• Call Speaker Sheldon Silver (212- 312-1420)

• Participate in the vigil in Albany Call NYSACRA at (518-449-7551)

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