This latest round of proposed state Health and Human Services proposed cuts are devastating, it shows that we have senators and representatives who are cowardly, irresponsible and unethical and don’t understand the realistic results of their trickledown theory.
They say that raising taxes is a job killer . . . how can this be justified?
More people with disabilities are going to lose jobs or cannot compete for jobs because they won’t have personal staff to physically help them. They won’t have vocational rehabilitation supports to remain competitive or desirable in the job market. They won’t have rehabilitation funding to return to work from injuries. They won’t have transportation to get to work or to appointments to maintain their health. They won’t have insurance coverage like MAEPD. Potential employers will see people with disabilities as a cost-burden to insurances plan.
When you cut off the funding stream, then the providers get hit as well. How will rehabilitative service organizations continue to provide services? How many people do they employ? How will specialized transportation services remain viable? How many people do they employ? And on, and on, and on?
In the last month, I have visited many day programs and group homes. Seeing and hearing what they have done to scale down costs is unbelievable. This is at huge costs to client safety and well-being, and creates a huge physical and mental toll of staff.
Group homes are sharing vans to save on gas and maintenance. This also takes away choice of activity. Staff is not only lost due to cuts, at times homes have had to borrow staff members from another house that the residents don’t know. In drastic cases, homes don’t have enough staff and hire temporary agencies. So imagine being a stable, strong person with developmental disabilities and a history of abuse, and waking up to go to the bathroom and a stranger is there telling you he will take you to the restroom.
Day programs are losing work contracts for people with disabilities because the job market is so oversaturated that the jobs they used to do – piece work, assembly, cleaning enclaves, door greeters – are being taken by people that can’t afford to retire, need a second job or who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.
People with disabilities also face a loss of activities because of licensed regulated mandatory community staff ratios. If a person is in a wheelchair and requires a transfer in the bathroom, he can’t go to an activity because the 1:4 ratio is all they can afford and the other three individuals have to have staff with them at all times. Many rules and a lack of staff serve to further isolate people.
Brigette Menger-Anderson is a longtime advocate for disability rights.