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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Specific Medicaid cuts to be determined for some NNY agencies


Agencies in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties that serve people with developmental disabilities know that cuts to their Medicaid funding have been reduced from 6 percent to 4.5 percent — a move their leaders say is still devastating.

The percentage was approved as part of the recently adopted state budget, which aims to reduce Medicaid funding through the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities by $90 million. Now, the only trouble is local agencies are unsure where the 4.5 percent cuts will come from; a statewide committee will break that down within the next few months.

“Now it’s a waiting game to see how it’s supposed to be done,” said Aida A. Mariani, director of public relations and development at Oneida-Lewis NYSARC. “When we (first) heard the 6 percent, the executive team started to meet to see where we could streamline things. We have had this cost-savings initiative that’s been ongoing.”

If the 4.5 percent cuts are across the board, the agency will lose about $1.1 million in Medicaid funding, and Jefferson Rehabilitation Center, Watertown, could lose $844,000. JRC Executive Director Howard W. Ganter said that although the funding cut was reduced, it’s still significant.

“I don’t think there’s as much fat out there” as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo thinks there is, Mr. Ganter said.

Both he and Disabled Persons Action Organization Executive Director Cynthia L. FitzPatrick said they want to keep services for people with developmental disabilities intact. Both agencies are considering changing employee benefits as a way to save money.

As of Wednesday, Mr. Ganter said no one at JRC will be laid off, but positions may be cut through attrition.

Unrelated to the loss of Medicaid funds, JRC has opted to close its annex on Van Duzee Street, which has housed part of the agency’s day habilitation program and meeting space for its staff. Mr. Ganter said the agency didn’t have the extra $3 million to fix it. The agency will only save about $11,000 per year by not having to pay utilities, and it most likely will be used for storage.

Clients who utilized the annex for day habilitation will either go to the agency’s main day habilitation space on Gaffney Drive, or JRC will utilize space from other nonprofit agencies.

Ms. Mariani said the Oneida-Lewis ARC is not giving up just yet. The agency had gotten thousands of people to send letters in support of the ARC to elected officials, and supporters also have traveled to Albany to petition lawmakers.

“It’s been all-hands-on-deck (because) 4.5 percent is still huge and extremely detrimental to those who have developmental disabilities. There’s no cure. There’s no stop,” she said.

United Helpers Executive Director Stephen E. Knight was unavailable for comment Wednesday, and a call seeking comment from the Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Mr. Ganter said he expects more information to be forthcoming within four or five months.

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