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Letter: Staff shortages pose crisis for people with disabilities

Staff shortages pose crisis for people with disabilities

New York State citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families face a worsening crisis. Critical supports and opportunities are threatened by catastrophic Direct Support Professional (DSP) staff shortages within not-for-profit agency programs. Safe and appropriate areas of need such as transportation, residential options, day opportunities and respite are being cut to the bare bones or no longer available.

Individuals with I/DD and their families identified that DSPs provide friendship, independence, compassion, self-confidence, new experiences, health and well-being, support, meaningful life opportunities, security and safety to their world. Without the ability to attain and retain qualified and dedicated DSPs, the not-for-profit agencies that provide vital integrative services will erode and collapse.

Elimination of integrative opportunities will result in institutionalizing individuals with I/DD within their homes. The irony of the potential demise of the not-for-profit agencies is that they were born of the Willowbrook institution tragedy of the 1970s.

Approximately 130,000 New York State citizens are identified with vast ranges of I/DD. Since 2012 Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decreased by $204 million the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ state share of spending for individuals served within the not-for-profit sector. Not-for-profit agencies serve 87 percent of the population and receive 51 percent of the budget, while state-run opportunities serve 13 percent of the population and receive 49 percent of the budget. The inequity of who is doing the serving, instead of who is served, is depriving the desperately needed not-for-profit agencies of critically needed dollars, DSPs and service opportunities.

To avoid an in-home Willowbrook catastrophe, legislators and the governor must restore lost funding, and more, in an equitable distribution amongst not-for-profit agency providers and state operations. Our most vulnerable citizens desperately need equitable distribution of money and manpower, now.

Joseph Mangio

Tonawanda

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