Editorial: Help protect state’s most vulnerable

We’ve come a long way since Willowbrook, but threatened budget cuts by New York State and the federal government that would impact services to the developmentally disabled could undo the good work of decades that has enabled individuals who cannot live independently to live happily within the community rather than being warehoused in an impersonal institution.

For the sake of New York’s most vulnerable residents, we cannot allow those cuts to come to fruition. State and federal cuts to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) total $240 million – money that now goes to recreational programs, educational programs and staff.

If the cuts go through, said one agency head, they would mean an end to many activities that brighten life for the people entrusted to the agency’s care.

The cuts are related to cuts in federal funding that comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which plan to slash $1.1 billion from total Medicaid funding sent to the state (which includes funding for OPWDD as well as other state agencies).

This adds up to a huge hole in a budget already decimated by past cuts – cuts that already make it difficult for cash-strapped agencies to provide needed services to the developmentally disabled.

New cuts would mean further slashing of critical programs; they would also mean reductions in staffing which potentially could put in jeopardy the welfare of the individuals served through OPWDD.

It is crucial for the long-term well-being of New York’s developmentally disabled population that those who oppose the cuts speak out against such draconian measures.

Opposition to the federal cuts can be voiced through calls to New York’s two senators, Charles Schumer (202-224-6542) and Kirsten Gillibrand (202-224-4451), to your U.S. representative (202-224-3121 for the Capitol switchboard) and to the White House (202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414).

To object to the state-based cuts, call Governor Andrew Cuomo at 518-474-8390.

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