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NYS Senator, Advocates Urge OPWDD To Reconsider Planned Cuts

Courtesy of the Office of NYS Senator David Carlucci

A New York state senator from the Hudson Valley held a virtual rally Wednesday against proposed cuts to the New York state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities. Providers and other participants explained how funding cuts would negatively impact their organizations and the people they serve.

Democratic state Senator David Carlucci says he was among those who fought to include the funds in this year’s budget, but the money is on the chopping block because of COVID-19’s fiscal impact on the state’s finances. He says the proposed $238 million in cuts would have an adverse impact on providers who offer people with disabilities housing and critical services.

“And so I stand with the advocates in urging OPWDD to reconsider these devastating cuts and to work towards solutions with our nonprofit providers who are doing the lifesaving work,” says Carlucci. “We must stand and fight for our direct service professionals, our DSPs, as well as our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Carmine Marchionda is CEO of The Arc Rockland.

“It’s without question that this cut will negatively impact our industry, our field,” says Marchionda. “It will also impact the provision and availability of residential services.”

He says the proposed cuts would total $1.8 million, or an 8.5 percent cut for ARC of Rockland.

“It’s a huge step backwards for New York that worked so hard to create residential opportunities in a person-centered way,” Marchionda says. “It’s hard to understand why the state would entertain these cuts at this time when there’s thousands of people on the waiting list looking for residential services.”

An OPWDD statement says, in part, “OPWDD does not anticipate changes to the services provided as a result of this targeted approach which implements savings goals that were included in the enacted budget. By targeting the ‘non-delivery of services’ rather than implementing an across the board reduction, OPWDD is able to preserve essential community-based services while also continuing to provide needed residential supports.”

Others say the cuts would affect how providers are paid in certain circumstances, and result in sometimes higher expenses. Tom McAlvanah is executive director of the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, Inc. (IAC).

“Before this cut, this $238 million annualized cut, was announced, nearly 40 percent of organizations had less than 30 days of cash in the bank. That’s about two payroll periods,” McAlvanah says. “That kind of underfunding that has been going on for ten years without cost-of-living adjustments along the way has really financially stressed organizations to the breaking point.”

He’s also president of New York Disability Advocates (NIDA).

“We’ve also had to spend close to $10 million in finding our own personal protective equipment PPEs — the masks, the gowns, the gloves,” says McAlvanah. “Early on, we, agencies struggled, voluntary agencies struggled around the state to go through the local health departments, the various municipalities. Certainly in New York City, they have also stepped up but, right from the get-go and continuing on to today, agencies have had to find their own PPEs and spend an enormous amount of money on it.”

He wants authorized reimbursement for COVID-19-related expenses. Again, Carlucci:

“But we have to do everything that we can in this next week to make sure that New York state and all of our residents recognize what a disaster this is looming in front of us in a time when everyone knows that we need more service, not less,” Carlucci says.

Carlucci introduced a bill in mid-June that requires OPWDD, the state Department of Health and state Division of the Budget to authorize voluntary providers of support and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to bill and be reimbursed within 30 days of billing for COVID-19 related costs and expenses.

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