Strong push restores $90M in OPWDD funding

Cecilia Tkaczyk

October 11, 2013

By Kyle Adams Columbia-Greene Media | 0 comments

ALBANY — A strong push by New York State lawmakers in the past several months has restored $90 million in proposed spending cuts for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities included in the state’s final 2013-2014 budget.

“The budget cuts would have devastated the services that our most vulnerable residents and their families rely on,” said Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. “I am proud to have fought for full restoration throughout the budget process, and am thrilled these cuts have finally been restored.”

The cuts would have also meant the loss of federal matching funds, doubling the figure from $90 million to $180 million, according to Tkaczyk’s office. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a measure restoring the full $90 million on Sept. 27.

With the restored funding, the total allocation for OPWDD in the 2013-2014 budget will be more than $4.8 billion to “support a comprehensive system of care serving the more than 126,000 persons with developmental disabilities and their families,” according to the New York State Division of the Budget.

The $90 million in cuts would have meant a reduction of $1 million for Columbia County’s COARC, $2.3 million for Ulster-Greene ARC and $800,000 for Schoharie County ARC, according to New York State Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, who, along with 146 of 147 other assembly members, opposed the cuts.

“This is great news for the OPWDD, for all our local ARC organizations, and most importantly, to the individuals who are facing the challenge of living with developmental disabilities and their families,” Lopez said in a statement. “The benefits of this restoration will go to providing the staff and services needed for the most vulnerable in our society.”

Ulster-Greene ARC serves about 1,200 people with developmental disabilities in the two counties, providing help finding homes, building life skills and finding employment, as well as offering clinical support, speech therapy, social work and a K-12 school in Ulster County. The $2.3 million cut, about 4.5 percent of the total budget, was meant to affect administrative costs, not services, said Communications Manager Melissa Paradies.

Executive Director John McHugh said the cut would have been amplified by reimbursement reductions incurred in 2011 and by the fact that Ulster-Greene ARC has not received a cost-of-living increase in three years.

“A 4.5 percent cut to our budget would have turned out to be more like an 8 to 9 percent reduction in real dollars,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “Gas prices for our vehicles have increased, the cost of electricity to our homes and programs have gone up and the expense of health insurance continues to climb.”

Anthony Alvarez, executive director of Schoharie County ARC, called the restoration “an overwhelming victory that curtailed devastating cuts to funding crucial services.”

“Passage of this bill would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of families, consumers, self-advocates, provider organizations and the leadership of our legislative representatives.