The developmentally disabled are the most vulnerable members of society, and treating them with respect is not only an obligation- it’s the right thing to do. However, the programs and organizations that house, educate, and employ New York’s most vulnerable are in danger of closing their doors. Budget cuts to the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) are crippling the services on which tens of thousands of New Yorkers with development disabilities rely. In order to resuscitate these vital programs, we must look at all available options.
People considered developmentally disabled range from those with autism and cerebral palsy to epilepsy and other neurological impairments. The OMRDD is the only department in New York that exists to help people with developmental disabilities enjoy their lives, experience good personal health and growth, and contribute to society in a meaningful way.
As founder of the Forest Park Aktion Club, a social club for adults with developmental disabilities that shares OMRDD’s priorities, I saw first hand how these services and programs make a big difference in the lives of these New Yorkers with needs.
However, recently approved budget cuts to OMRDD are crippling its ability to support its wide range of programs. Reduced funding negatively affects all major providers for the developmentally disabled, such as: Queens Centers for Progress, which provides Medicaid services for over 565 individuals; AHRC New York City, which may be unable to maintain its comprehensive spectrum of services for adults and children; and New York Families of Autistic Children, which may not be able to provide family centered learning for children suffering from autistic.
Under the governor’s proposed Deficit Reduction Plan, OMRDD would have suffered a staggering loss to its operating budget of 10%. My colleagues in the Assembly and I managed to negotiate those cuts down to 5.4%, but we need to work to bring this number to zero.
This feat is possible if we prioritize the needs of the developmentally disabled and reallocate monies from other already available sources.
For example, New York State and the federal government traditionally divide the cost of Medicaid evenly. However, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act the federal government pays a greater share of Medicaid than Albany. I propose reallocating the difference in funds- the monies the State planned to pay for Medicaid and what the State has to pay for Medicaid- to OMRDD, which is in dire need. In other words, we must redirect the monies New York State pays into Medicaid to OMRDD in order to preserve valuable and necessary programming.
Since taking office, I have met with dozens of organizations, neighbors and parents whose loved ones rely on OMRDD programs. To allow budget cuts to debilitate these programs would be unconscionable.
Protecting the needs and well-being of the developmentally disabled is one of my priorities as an Assemblyman, and I’m dedicated to advocating on their behalf. I hope you will join me in the fight to put all New Yorkers first.
Assemblyman Mike Miller