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Don't Cut Our Lifeline Press Release

Hawthorne, N.Y. March 7, 2013 – If Governor Andrew Cuomo’s drastic cuts to the New York State Medicaid budget pass the New York State Legislature, it will be devastating to people with developmental disabilities. The programs many depend upon to live independent lives are at risk if the governor’s measure passes and some are speaking out on how these cuts will impact their daily lives.

The governor’s proposal consists of a $500 million cut to the New York State Medicaid spending plan. The Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, (OPWDD), could lose $120 million dollars from the budget that supports programs serving people with developmental disabilities statewide. This means a cut of $2.2 million to Arc of Westchester’s 2013 budget.

“The cuts in aid will directly affect us, as well as so many of our friends who have learned to live life with our disabilities,” Lois, a long-time Arc of Westchester consumer, said.

Lois and her husband Patsy, also an Arc of Westchester consumer, live independently in Mount Kisco, NY. Lois and Patsy have been married for 25 years and attribute their independent living to the services they receive through Arc of Westchester and Medicaid.

“Medicaid helps me out with my medications so my seizure disorder is well controlled and enables me to have my walker so I can safely get around and get to my job every day,” Patsy said.

Without his job, Patsy and Lois would not be able to afford to live independently and be active citizens in the community.

Richard Swierat, Executive Director of the Arc of Westchester, said that a cut of this magnitude is not only detrimental to the population that relies on their services, but also to the state in the long run. “Placing the burden of balancing the budget on the backs of people with developmental disabilities is unfair and a short-sighted solution to a larger public policy problem. These folks aren’t taking handouts – these services provide employment opportunities that lead to independence, so they don’t have to rely solely on state services,” Swierat said.

The Arc of Westchester, the oldest and largest agency in the county, serving individuals with developmental disabilities, has been operating with a $3 million shortfall from their budget due to the rebalancing of the Medicaid program two years ago.

“The governor has allocated a whopping $60 million to the Buffalo Bills in this same budget proposal – where are the priorities in Albany?” Swierat asked.
These additional cuts mean a loss of services, not only for individuals and families currently dependent on the programs, but will impede access to programs for those who seek services in the future. The current proposed 6% cut would remove another $2.2 Million from their budget.

“Services provided to those who need it help them lead active and productive lives; frankly speaking, keeping them out of institutions where the costs become tremendous and life can be terrible,” Patsy said.

While Arc of Westchester has received over 9% in cuts, the number of people they serve has increased by 12% during the same time period.

“In a time when demand for our services is on the rise – with increased autism diagnoses, expanded life expectancy and more families than ever turning to us for our life-transforming assistance – we cannot allow our government’s commitment to people with developmental disabilities to be weakened,” Swierat said in a letter addressed to families who will be impacted by these cuts.

If the governor’s proposed measure is passed by the state legislature, the cuts will become effective April 1, 2013, - putting programs that support people with developmental disabilities statewide in immediate jeopardy.“We are proud of how far we have come over the years and don’t want to lose any of the great gains we have made,” Lois said.

“We all must speak up, be advocates for ourselves, “Patsy said.

Patsy will be in attendance at the Westchester Delegation meeting on Friday, March 8th at 3pm. He, with other Self-Advocates, families and supporters, will meet with state legislators to tell them the impact the governor’s proposed Medicaid cuts will have on them and the community.

The meeting will take place at Arc of Westchester, The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center, 265 Saw Mill River Road, Hawthorne, NY and is open to the public to attend.