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Senate Budget "Disappoints" MA Families with Disabilities

May 17, 2012

BOSTON - Advocates for families with children who have intellectual or developmental disabilities say they are sad and disappointed with the budget proposed Wednesday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. It contains $10 million less in family support than the House version. And it may mean some 2,000 families will face more hardships as they support family members with intellectual disabilities.

Susan Nadworny of Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change explains.

"It's really frustrating because, being out there and seeing how hard people work to keep their families together, this is just, just very sad."

Adding to families' woes is an additional cut: one hour off of the six-hour daily Day Habilitation program. Differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget will have to be ironed out by a conference committee. Nadworny says she and fellow advocates will put on a last-chance push to influence lawmakers.

Leo Zarkissian with The Arc of Massachusetts says he is also disappointed, and he is determined to make a final pitch to legislators.

"If we can convey to the members how important it is to do this, they can respond affirmatively - if we do what we need to do to get the word out."

While state support is falling, Nadworny says, the needs of those who care for those with disabilities are rising.

"The rates of disabilities - obviously, autism and others - are high, and families are doing a lot of hard work maintaining their family members at home."

Zarkissian says a family that receives a $1,500 to $2,000 annual stipend might have to turn over a child with a disability to residential care, if the budget isn't adjusted.

"Family Support is one of those cost-effective services that allows families to use respite care or get needed items of equipment, whether it's durable medical equipment or other kinds of things that make a big difference in family life."

Referring to the overall budget, Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) said, "Some of these efficiencies aren't pleasant," but he noted that the state's finances are relatively stable compared to those of other states.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA