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Crowd Expected as JFA Committee Mulls Medicaid Budget

January 28, 2011

Boise, ID - A big crowd is expected at the Idaho Statehouse today, as the legislative budget committee listens to public testimony on health and welfare budgets. Gov. Otter is proposing cuts totaling around $80 million in state and federal funding for Medicaid, taking aim specifically at services to adults with developmental disabilities.

Char Quade, Boise, is signing up to testify. She's the mother of an adult child with a disability who depends on Medicaid services to live on her own and stay employed. Quade takes issue with discussions she has heard that if funding is cut, somehow "volunteers" will step in and fill the holes.

"If we don't have volunteers trained and up and ready, and we don't have good oversight, we run the risk of moving back toward the times when persons with disabilities lived in the shadows of society."

Mark Reinhardt has a disability and lives in a group home in Boise. He credits help and coaching for day-to-day tasks and social skills, through community-based services, as key to his personal success.

"Thanks to services like these, I am now able to function enough, able enough to pursue an education, to go into broadcast journalism."

He produces video and podcasts for online channels.

Andrea Shipley, executive director of the Idaho Community Action Network, also plans to testify about the need to keep funding in place and explore budget-balancing options. She gives kudos to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee for holding a public hearing at all. This is only the second time in history they have done that; the first time was last Friday.

"That's democracy in action. We're asking legislators to take the next step: To take suggestions from those directly affected and put those into policy."

Mary Chant, executive director of Community Action Partnership of Idaho, says her organization works with hundreds of Gem Staters who have developmental disabilities. She says options for them are dim if budget cuts eliminate services.

"People will have to live in institutions who could otherwise live independently, with support. In some cases, we can see people actually losing their lives."

The hearing begins at 8 a.m. and a rally will be held on the Statehouse steps at the same time.



Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID