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Legislature supports deep cuts to developmental disability programs

Legislature supports deep cuts to developmental disability programs

In a last minute reversal and in spite of assurances to the contrary, the New York State legislature voted to support Governor Paterson’s plan to slash OMRDD Medicaid programs by 5.4% and non-Medicaid programs by 10%. The measure passed the Senate (59 to 3) at around 11:30AM on December 2, after having passed the Assembly (105 to 32) early the same morning (vote tallies not available at the time of this writing).

“The people needed a balanced budget without a tax increase and that’s understandable,” said Camp Venture’s Executive Director, Dan Lukens. “What they did not sign on for, I believe, was a measure that would endanger developmentally disabled people. The people, I believe, have taken it on faith that the authors of this policy can do this without putting vulnerable at substantial risk. Our job as advocates now, is to make sure that it doesn’t.”

Though advocates had hoped that the December 2, deal might fall apart and that the Senate would not pass the bill due to the fact that as of late last night the Governor was threatening not to provide full reimbursement and essentially cut school aid.  Apparently, the Governor gave his word to the Senate that there were no school aid cuts that affect school districts, therefore, the Senate felt pressure to vote for the bill.

According to officials of the IAC, a provider association working closely with the budget process, though both the Senate Democrats and Republicans supported restoration of OMRDD cuts, when it came down to the final budget negotiation, both the Senate and Assembly Democrats agreed to the 5% cut to Medicaid services and 10% cut to non-Medicaid OMRDD services.  OMRDD appears to be the only Medicaid services that were cut.  Other local assistance programs and grants were cut by 12.5% but only for non-Medicaid programs and services. 

Concerns at Camp Venture run deep. “I’m worried about how we’re going to do this,” Lukens said. “Unlike some of our smaller sister agencies, I believe we can survive this, but our focus will need to be on protective oversight. “

OMRDD Commissioner Diana Jones-Ritter has indicated that her office will do everything possible to reduce the impact on direct service provision. With the size and scope of the cuts being handed down, however, Lukens characterized that job as being a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. “We haven’t seen anything like this since Willowbrook,” Lukens said. “This is really bad.”

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