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PATAKI'S PROPOSED BUDGET FORCES THE TOUGHEST OF DECISIONS

I work for an organization that serves adults who are mentally retarded or have cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy or other similar disabilities. Our agency is not a large bureaucracy but is a smaller grass-roots kind of an organization that helps people with disabilities who live on their own or with their families.

Although we help people in a variety of ways, one of the most important functions we serve is as a safety net. Lots of people we work with have spent some time in institutions.

When society decided that it was not appropriate for people to be warehoused, organizations like mine came into being to help them become active, contributing members of society. We don't do this at great expense. Many of the people we employ are paid less than $6 per hour.

In his haste to implement an austerity budget and reduce the governmental role in society, Gov. Pataki will make caring and common sense the first casualty. Since the governor released details of his budget, our staff has been anxiously attempting to refer people to services that look most likely to continue and have the greatest likelihood of keeping people safe.

Recently, we were devastated to hear that what seemed the most hopeful source of money for those services had been "frozen." My co-workers and I spent the rest of the day trying to guess which of the people we serve might be able to survive and which would be at greatest risk if the budget goes into effect.

The weight of guessing wrong is a heavy burden.

MARY PETRAKOS TERRANOVA
Community Services
Williamsville

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