Pandemic funding cuts leave lasting effect on programs for those with intellectual, developmental disabilities
The COVID-19 pandemic could keep Long Island residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities from getting the critical care they need.
Mary Fleisch is the sole caregiver for her 53-year-old brother Charlie Fleisch, who was born with cerebral palsy. Charlie Fleisch attends the Life Options Day Program at CP Nassau five days a week, and has been for the past 20 years.
But now that program and many like it may be in jeopardy because of funding cuts from the state. Charlie Fleisch's program is looking at a $3 million to $4 million shortfall.
"Every year, the disabled community has to fight with government due to budget cuts," says Charlie Fleisch, who used an eye device to type out his feelings. "It is unfathomable for the government to cut services."
The day program at CP Nassau is scheduled to reopen on Aug. 10. But because of the cuts, the executive director bluntly says he's now opening at a larger capacity than originally intended.
"If we don't see a change in the next three to six months that we can predict and plan to be able to sustain our day program, the day program that we have will not exist as it does today," says Nassau Cerebral Palsy Association executive director Bob McGuire.
McGuire says they're opening at a larger capacity in order to bring in more money, but says he's confident they can do it safely.
A statewide group called New York Disability Advocates sent a letter to the Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying in part, "...we request that a moratorium be placed on all cuts that have been proposed and that a working group be convened to openly discuss and identify how resources can best be deployed to minimize further harm to the field."
The director of communications for the state's Office for People With Developmental Disabilities released a statement in response, saying: