Media Advisory: Conference Committee Urged to Restore Critical Disability Services to FY11 Budget
Randolph, Mass. -- Before the Massachusetts House/Senate conference committee sit two versions of the proposed FY11 budget that include up to $22 million in cuts to disability services, directly impacting the health and well-being of over 2,200 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
As one of Massachusetts’ largest nonprofits, May Institute has a long history of serving some of the state’s most disabled individuals, and understands how devastating the consequences of these proposed cuts would be, not only for the families directly affected, but for the state as a whole.
These cuts are not a responsible course of action. They would have immediate and long-term consequences, including:
- Of the 11,000 individuals in Community Residential programs (which already has a waiting list of more than 600 individuals), the proposed cuts would leave nearly 200 people without the shelter provided by these programs – programs that provide care for some of the most severely disabled people in our state. The intensity and necessity of these services is often misunderstood. Many of these individuals cannot carry out the most basic activities of daily living without assistance. Some have complex medical needs and receive nursing care as well as occupational, physical, and speech therapy while attending these programs. Others have significant behavioral issues, engage in self-injurious behavior, or are fragile elderly. All require a high level of care and support to ensure their health and well-being.
- In addition to creating significant hardship, these cuts would not be fiscally prudent. Community-based services such as the Day and Employment Programs are cost-effective, providing intensive services in a group setting, and reducing the need for other costlier day services. Eliminating these programs and others like them, such as Family Support and Community Residential, will result in many adults being forced into more expensive, state-sponsored options. For individuals with no families to care for them, any semblance of a safety net could disappear.
- Hundreds of families would be cut off from DESE-DDS Program and Family Support – funds that make it possible for adult children to remain at home under the family’s care. This is particularly troubling when funding for community residential programs and placements are becoming less of an option. The waiting list for Family Support services is over 3,000 individuals; the program was already cut by nearly $10 million last year. Without these funds, families would be forced to tap into other state-sponsored services such as residential schools or pediatric nursing homes. The current version of the Senate budget will result in 750 more individuals without family support, and another 100 without the intensive DESE-DDS program.
- Hundreds of individuals with disabilities would lose their employment. These individuals rely on Day/Employment programs to help them obtain and maintain jobs in the community through job training and coaching. Every day, we witness the heavy toll that unemployment takes on our families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who find themselves without jobs. The additional burden on individuals with disabilities – who often require special training, job coaching, and support – is significant.
- The longer-term impact on these individuals, many of whom are making gains towards greater independence and self-reliance, will be their inability, without support, to maintain the necessary skills to continue this kind of growth.
- Under the proposed budget, 180 young adults will lose Turning 22 services, which would impact their development in transitioning from school-age programs to adult programs. These services are already under-funded; many families who would lose services would not be able to adequately care for these young adults in the home.
- There are also workforce implications. These programs employ a significant number of the state’s direct care workers who provide some of the most essential services to individuals with disabilities. The related costs associated with their loss of income (such as unemployment and health insurance) would be substantial.
- Massachusetts has been a pioneer in the de-institutionalization of individuals with developmental disabilities. Community-based services have long been identified as the most effective means of supporting these individuals and enhancing their quality of life. Cutting back or eliminating these services is counterproductive at best. The cuts would directly and severely impact the state’s most vulnerable citizens, and no viable alternatives are being presented.
- The cuts threaten the financial viability of some of the state’s smaller nonprofit organizations that serve individuals with disabilities, as well as the critical safety net that Massachusetts has worked so hard to establish and maintain. As an organization that played an important role in the de-institutionalization process in the Commonwealth and across the country, May Institute is committed to supporting the state’s long-term vision.
“I trust we will not be as short-sighted as to cut the community-based programming we put in place decades ago in order to respond to a financial situation that is much more short-term,” says Dr. Walter P. Christian, President and CEO of May Institute. “We must send a strong message about our collective commitment to ensuring services for those least able to provide for themselves.”
The challenges we continue to face in Massachusetts in this current fiscal climate are sobering, and the projected revenue shortfall requires thoughtful and deliberate action on the part of our legislators. May Institute believes that balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth is not the responsible course of action. It is critical that the Conference Committee restore full funding to these crucial services.
About May Institute
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, mental illness, and behavioral health needs. Since its founding over 55 years ago, May Institute has evolved into an award-winning network that serves over 25,000 individuals and their families annually. With corporate headquarters in Randolph, Mass., the Institute operates more than 200 service locations.
For information about May Institute, call 800-778-7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.