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Supporters Push for Flexibility in Funding for Disabilities

February 23, 2012

BOSTON - Families of Bay Staters who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are cheering legislation moving through the legislature. If it passes, they hope to secure services that better meet their loved ones' needs, at minimal increased cost.

Kathy Kaczynski of Auburn is the mother of a 27-year-old man with Down syndrome. Current state funding allows him to attend a day program. However, he wants more out of life, she says, like a job and a community network.

"Instead of Joe going to a day program that he doesn't want and doing something that doesn't meet his needs, they could free up that money so that Joe gets the supports he needs to be successful in the community. Fiscally, we find out there's so much money left over that we get to help another person and another person."

The "Real Lives Bill," H984, was reported out favorably by the Committee on Children and Families last week. Supporters are holding a briefing today for legislators. In the long run, supporters say, per-person costs should be less than under the current system.

Kaczynski says the changes would allow families to have more control over the allocation of funds, and in many cases they would use less funding for what their family member needs.

"He'd rather go shoot hoops when he gets out of work, and he'd like to go exercise three days a week, every other day. These are things he would like to do in the community - not as part of a day program. Funds that are appropriated for Joe now cannot be used for those things."

The Massachusetts Alliance for 21st Century Disability Policy is organizing support for the bill. The legislation is available online at

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - MA