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Albany Asked to Boost Funding for Independent-Living Centers

Advocates for New Yorkers with disabilities say every $1 invested in independent-living centers saves the state $9. (Wikimedia Commons)
Advocates for New Yorkers with disabilities say every $1 invested in independent-living centers saves the state $9. (Wikimedia Commons)
February 12, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – State funding for New York's independent-living centers hasn't increased in ten years, and that needs to change - that's the message being delivered to state lawmakers today by advocates for people with disabilities.

Some 41 independent-living centers provide direct services to more than 100,000 New Yorkers.

According to Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), the cost of operating those centers keeps going up, but funding is not keeping up with the increases.

"The minimum wage has been increased, but there's been no increase in our grants," Dooha said. "Changes have been made in the benefits available to employees, but no increase has been made available to us, so that we can support and sustain our employees."

The advocacy groups want the state to increase funding for the centers by $5 million a year.

Lindsay Miller, executive director of the New York Association on Independent Living, pointed out that the centers are extremely cost effective.

"A huge part of what independent-living centers have done is transition and diversion work," Miller explained. "So, helping individuals who are living in an institution to return back to the community, or helping individuals avoid unnecessary institutionalization."

Since 2001, she said, independent-living centers in New York have prevented the unnecessary institutionalizing of more than 31,000 people, and helped more than 5,000 transition back to the community.

Dooha said that has saved the state more than $2 billion, making state funding of the centers not just a vital service for people with disabilities, but a sound investment as well.

"For every state dollar invested in independent living, independent-living center transition activities save the state more than $9 in institutionalization costs."

Lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature are circulating sign-on letters to rally support for increasing state funding for independent-living centers in this year's budget.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY