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BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus
Helen Reyes with GEC Executive Director Paul Cassone and Arlene Rutuelo, president of the GEC Board of Directors.

Concern about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget for services and the support for individuals with disabilities provided the main topic of discussion as the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council (BDDC) hosted its annual legislative brunch.

The event, held on Friday, March 18, at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, 2911 West 15th Street, focused on the needs of those with developmental disabilities and how the state can do a better job at supporting their well-being.

Chairperson of BDDC Lorenzo Brown, stressed the importance of holding such an event. “Today we are here to advocate for the ongoing funding and support for services of individuals with developmental disabilities in Brooklyn whether a newborn baby or senior citizen,” he said. “Individuals with developmental disabilities require lifelong care that promotes inclusion in community, promotes independence of the person, is individualized in nature and encourages productivity.”

Assemblymember Pam Harris told this paper that the focus needs to be on “commonsense issues” that can improve services to people with developmental disabilities. “For instance, the Guild for Exceptional Children has issues right now with individuals that go to the hospital  because [Guild staffers] are not getting paid to stay with them overnight,” she said. “That’s a huge problem. They have to have the same staff with them but insurance won’t pay for these staff to stay.”

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus

Harris said that a bill has been written with Paul Cassone, executive director of GEC, providing guidance, and will be introduced in the near future.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate urged his listeners to make sure to present their concerns to state government. “I come not only to show support for the groups but also to make sure and tell them to get their message up to Albany as we approach the budget.” added Abbate, stressing, “Their work is invaluable to the community.”

State Senator Marty Golden also addressed the crowd, discussing the employment of developmental-disabled individuals. “They are some of the hardest-working, most dedicated workers in our state. They deserve every dollar they receive and we need to secure an increase in the reimbursement rate to service providers so that their employees are able to earn a livable wage,” he said. “You and your developmental disabled agencies have to be made whole.”

Brown added that changes must be made quickly. “The state is cutting reimbursement rates to programs while at the same time failing to provide a cost-of-living adjustment, both of which are resulting in a financially distressed and operationally strained provider community,” he said. “The recent rash of cuts to reimbursement rates andfailure to recognize increased costs associated with service delivery, in the wake of non-funded mandates, makes it feel as though there’s a new war in the field of developmental disabilities. And this time, providers seem to be in the line of fire.”

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