Governor would cut funding to help the disabled

To the editor:

I am asking for your assistance in bringing to the public’s attention a critical issue that affects thousands of people who live in the Adirondacks. Gov. Cuomo has proposed a massive $240 million ($120 million state share) reduction in funding for supports and services to people with developmental disabilities. Although these supports and services have jointly been provided by the state and local not-for-profit agencies for more than 30 years, the governor’s cuts are only imposed on the voluntary sector. As a result of reductions in funding imposed every year since 2008-09, services have already been sharply cut.

Not-for-profit organizations supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families provide crucial supports to enable people to not only live in their communities but to contribute to their communities through work, volunteering and being good neighbors. This proposed cut will be devastating to the lives of these people and their families, particularly in light of the fact that our field has suffered nearly $350 million in cuts over the past three years.

These community-based services that are provided by the not-for-profit providers are already being operated at the highest level of efficiency, at the lowest cost possible without jeopardizing the health and safety of the individuals being supported. Cuts to funding this year will represent cuts to services for these people, critical services that keep people either at home with their families, or in small residential settings in their community. Our agency already operates these critical residential and day services at a financial loss, but we continue to provide them because it is the right thing to do. We support more than 300 people with developmental disabilities in the wilderness communities in Essex, Franklin and Hamilton counties through the hard and tireless work of about 380 employees, who are already underpaid yet fiercely dedicated to the people they have developed strong relationships with. We cannot sustain further cuts to our funding; the current rates are already inadequate to give people quality lives and still comply with the mountains of unfunded regulation that continue to accrue at an alarming rate.

Our little agency has the reputation of successfully supporting people with very challenging behaviors and medical complications who are difficult to place in residential settings. We have accepted these people into our homes, placed extra staffing in place to support them, and provided specialized behavior support and medical training to our staff – all without extra funding or extra pay for the staff, who are willing to risk their own health and safety to support these individuals in living full and meaningful lives in the community. We are in jeopardy of losing our ability to continue to provide those supports. And we are afraid for them.

Sadie Spada, CEO

The Adirondack Arc

Tupper Lake