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How Does New Budget Affect Ohio’s Most Vulnerable?

July 18, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Service providers and advocates for Ohioans with disabilities still are sorting through the details of the state's new two-year budget to see how budget cuts will affect the lives of some of the state's most vulnerable citizens. As the budget is implemented, significant changes to services are expected across the board to programs which help individuals with disabilities.

Some of the cuts include reductions to the Help Me Grow program, which provides developmental services for children from birth through age 3, reductions in subsidies to county boards of developmental disabilities, and education cuts that will impact special-education programs.

Barb Yavorcik, executive director of the Autism Society of Ohio, says some of those who will be impacted the greatest are the thousands who are on waiting lists for services. Their needs won't be addressed now, she says.

"Folks that are looking for just a little bit of help - maybe some respite care or some medication help or some basic therapy - won't be able to get it because of the fact that services are being cut instead of being added to."

Yavorcik's advice for individuals with disabilities and their families is to be aware of what's coming.

"It's important to be a strong advocate, know what your rights are and be informed, and talk to the folks who are delivering your services to make sure you're getting what you're entitled to."

People with disabilities are among the state's most vulnerable citizens, Yavorcik says, adding that leaders need to keep that in mind as they make important budget decisions.

"It's not necessarily cutting so much as thoughtful use of the resources, and making sure the resources are working for the families that need them the most."

One interesting addition to the budget, Yavorcik says, is the creation of the Jon Peterson Special Education Scholarship, which provides a voucher for any special-education student on an Individualized Education Program.

More information on how the new budget affects individuals with disabilities can be found online at autismohio.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH