New York budget could hurt disabled

By Lorne Fultonberg

March 4, 2013 Updated Mar 5, 2013 at 2:14 AM EDT

Binghamton (WBNG Binghamton) Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget would slash $240 million from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.

That translates to a 6 percent cut for local groups that work with people who are disabled.

Cuomo is proposing a $142 billion budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that has to close a $500 million gap. He proposes cutting $120 million to the Office of Disability Services -- an amount usually matched by the state -- and $380 million to Medicaid.

Organizations like ACHIEVE may have to make significant cuts to their staffs and their services if Cuomo's budget is approved as is.

"The unfortunate part is that we'll have to eliminate some of the services we provide, which will affect quite a number of individuals in the community," said ACHIEVE CEO Mary Jo Thorn. "These are crucial services for them in that it helps to address their health and safety needs.

"Unfortunately a cut like this will have a definite impact," she added.

Thorn says the cuts target Medicaid programs that create revenue, which means the pre-vocational and rehabilitation services could be at risk.

"Based on what we do to make people productive in their communities, I think it's imperative that we be able to continue to provide those types of services," Thorn said.

ACHIEVE faced similar cuts two years ago, but was able to avoid layoffs. This year, Thorn said, ACHIEVE will have to look at potential cuts to jobs and benefits.

"Our staffing is critical to maintain the safety and health needs as well as the quality of life for the individuals that we serve," she said. "It will be compromised with a 6 percent cut."

ACHIEVE has been asking people to call their state senators and assembly representatives to share their personal stories and send a message to Albany about how harmful they say these cuts could be.

"A lot of the recipients can't advocate for themselves, so I do think that it is vulnerable from that perspective," Thorn said.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-123rd) says her office has been receiving plenty of calls. She said she expects something to be restored to the OPWDD.

Cuomo wants the state legislature to approve his budget by April 1.