Hudson Valley News
12:39 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Families, Agencies Fight Proposed Cut to Disabilities Programs and Services

James, Kathy, and John Cornett
Credit Greystone Programs

Some 175 people packed a large room last evening at New Horizons Resources in Dutchess County. They were there to hear about how a proposed funding cut to non-profit service providers for people with developmental disabilities, like New Horizons, would affect them and their families.

Those in attendance expressed both anger and worry over New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 6 percent across-the-board budget cut to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, a cut that amounts to $120 million for the state. The funding cut is part of 30-day amendments to the governor’s proposed 2013-14 budget.

That’s James Cornett, who was there with his identical-twin brother, John, and their mother, Kathy.  And the woman who asked him the question is Michelle Hathaway. She works at Poughkeepsie-based Greystone Programs, and plans to compile the video interviews onto a DVD to be mailed to Albany.

Kathy Cornett says that as a single mother of two sons, both with mild autism, the three agencies that provide services for her 24-year-olds, along with a work program, are important.

Ellen Cordaro is the president of the Kingston-based Hudson Valley Autism Society, which services seven counties.

Catherine Doyle is the CEO of Greystone Programs, and explains the purpose of the family forum.

The state Senate and Assembly aim to pass a budget by March 21st.

The mobilization Doyle mentions includes signing form letters to state legislators, calling them, e-mail blasts, and social media campaigns. Five agencies in Dutchess have come together in solidarity to rally against the proposed cut. Along with Greystone and New Horizons are Abilities First; Cardinal Hayes Home for Children; and Dutchess ARC.

Caren O’Brien-Edwards is the Community Services Coordinator at Greystone.

Hudson Valley state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have voiced opposition to the cut. Republican State Senator Greg Ball is holding a press conference Friday in Westchester County, to speak out against the cut, and how such a cut would affect service providers in Westchester and Putnam Counties. State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, both Democrats, are joining Friday with people with disabilities, their parents, and advocates at Schenectady ARC to fight against the proposed cut.

The proposed 6-percent cut stems from the state’s attempt to close a $500 million Medicaid gap in the budget, and, if approved, would be effective April 1st.  Agencies across the Hudson Valley are facing cuts ranging from about $800,000 to more than $2 million.

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