Willowbrook in mind as cuts loom for disabled people’s services

PAUL SMITHS – Officials said it was coincidental that an exhibit about Willowbrook State School opened now, as developmental disabilities services organizations are looking at state aid cuts, but it’s significant in light of that.

The exhibit details the horrific conditions at Willowbrook State School, a home for children with developmental disabilities, in the 1960s and ’70s, with overcrowding, uncleanliness and lack of supervision as the norm.

Officials said this serves as an important reminder as the state looks at cutting $240 million from the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. The federal government has been paying the state far more than it costs to provide services to people with developmental disabilities in recent years, and the cuts are meant to right that, according to the governor’s office.

The OPWDD cuts would trickle down to related voluntary agencies that also provide services to people with developmental disabilities, which have already been dealing with deep cuts in recent years.

Citizen Advocates Executive Director Susan Delehanty said Monday that between her organization and Adirondack Arc, they were looking at $2 million in aid reductions from the initial budget projections.

She said she’s been hearing different things flying around as budget negotiations ramped up over the last few days, but she said local legislators have been showing support.

“We’re hopeful that we will get at least a partial restoration,” Delehanty said after the opening ceremony for the Willowbrook exhibit Monday at the Paul Smith’s College VIC.

The exhibit opened Monday and will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until March 29.