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    by Robert Michelin

    HAWTHORNE, N.Y. — A proposed reduction in funding by New York State could reduce Arc of Westchester’s budget by $2.2 million, which the group’s executive director said would have a massive effect on the services offered by the facility for the developmentally disabled.

    “The lives of our loved ones are at stake,” Richard Swierat said, executive director for the Hawthorne-based facility. “In a time when demand for our services is on the rise — with increased autism diagnoses, expanded life expectancy and more families than ever turning to us for our life-transforming assistance, we cannot allow our government’s commitment to people with developmental disabilities to be weakened.”

    The cuts to Arc of Westchester are included in the state budget’s 6 percent decrease in funding to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities. Over the past two years, Arc of Westchester said its budget has already been reduced by more than $3 million due to cuts in state funding. During this time, the number of people the facility served increased by 12 percent, creating a difficult gap to maintain.

    The proposed cuts are expected to go into effect on April 1. On Friday, members of Arc of Westchester will hold a rally in Hawthorne with representatives from other developmentally disabled facilities in the area to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put an end to the cuts.

    New York State Sen. Greg Ball said he supports Arc of Westchester’s effort.

    “We should not and cannot be balancing the state budget on the backs of our most vulnerable population,” Ball said.

    Arc of Westchester was founded in 1949 and is the oldest facility in the county for serving children and adults with developmental disabilities. The organization features over 700 employees and treats more than 1,600 patients a year.  (ARTICLE)