Concerns over $120 million in proposed funding cuts to the developmentally disabled will have a chorus of Long Island agencies – including Commack's Young Adult Institute and Smithtown's Developmental Disabilities Institute – traveling to the governor's satellite office in Hauppauge on Friday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a 6 percent cut to the state's Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. But on the heels of cuts in recent years, YAI put a call out to family and friends on its website last week saying that the proposed further cuts are just too much.
A letter from Stephen E. Freeman, CEO of YAI, and Eliot P. Green, chair of the Board of Trustees, reads in part: "Over the past years agencies like ours have tightened our belts in response to severe cuts. The system of care for people with developmental disabilities in New York State is in a sensitive and critical period of transition. YAI, and other voluntary agencies, are committed to the reform and innovation needed to provide better support for people with disabilities in more cost effective ways."
YAI, with headquarters in New York City, serves more than 20,000 peopleaccording to its website.
DDI's Director of Development, Dan Rowland, said on Thursday that further cuts would likely have to come from the nonprofit's service to individuals.
"Eighty percent of our costs are people that we pay to take care of people," he said. "So to absorb cuts of this magnitude, where do you think we're going to take it?"
Rowland – whose organization oversees the care of some 1,500 individuals on five campuses – will be representing just one of a number of nonprofit providers to developmentally disabled individuals at Cuomo's Hauppauge office on Friday morning, starting at 11 a.m. Margaret Raustiala, coordinator for the Alliance of Long Island Agencies – a group of 35 nonprofit members – said all organizations have been invited to attend.
The proposed cuts, according to a North Country Radio Report, come as a result of federal overpayments to New York State for medical coverage over the past 20 years. Though the state faces an estimated $1.5 billion budget shortfall, and cuts to OPWDD were just one of many made by Cuomo, legislators in both houses of the New York State Legislature have supported restoring the 6 percent cut to OPWDD. A state budget for next year must be finalized before April 1.
Ellen Holmes, a DDI employee with two sons with autism, said the cuts could go as far as making her family fear for their safety.
Thomas, age 17, has an after-school aide whose hours could be cut as well, Holmes said, which could force her to cut back hours at work to be home with him.
With her 20-year-old son Andrew about to age out of the DDI children's program, a wait list for those over the age of 21 may only be longer if further cuts are made. And Holmes said Andrew requires four aides in the area present due to his self-injurious behavior.
"We clearly don't have four people in the house," she said. "My husband can't even handle him ... I'm terrified there won't be enough help for them."