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Cuomo reducing services for the disabled

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During his tenure, Gov. Cuomo has worked to reduce services for the developmentally disabled and complete his father’s crusade against them.

His weapon? Reinterpreting the Olmstead Act, which mandates that the developmentally disabled population be placed in the “least restrictive environment” possible (think of a place where they can be all they can be) to mean that the only environment that should be supported is a completely independent one.

For most, that is an unfeasible proposition. Right now, people who would otherwise have no chance at employment are able to work and earn what paycheck they can. For some, it’s the highlight of their life; it’s either payday or they’re counting down the days until it is.

Is Cuomo really going to pull the rug from under these people and try to pass it off as being done for their own good? These people may have difficulties, but they are far from stupid.

No, this is a thinly veiled cost-cutting move. The unfortunate part is that it won’t likely reduce costs; it will just shift them.

Guardians who were able to be employed with their loved one working in a workshop will now have to either quit or find an alternate caretaker — both expensive propositions. When New York reduced care for the mental health population ($132 million between 2009 and 2011), it put an increased strain on the law enforcement and judicial systems. So even if that was a trade the government was willing to make, any savings at the state level are still likely overstated.

While these political games are being played, lives are in the balance. With the developmentally disabled population, new abilities are slowly learned and quickly forgotten.

Even if the jockeying for position lasts only a few months before restoring funding, it could take years to reclaim those gains. These people don’t need to be further disabled by the budget cuts.

If the state really wants to uphold the Olmstead Act, the bill’s intention is clear: help the disabled. Keeping the workshops furthers that cause.

Kenneth Alcorn

Watertown

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