By CRAIG FREILICH
St. Lawrence NYSARC stands to lose another $1.3 million in support from New York State on top of the substantial cuts they have sustained in recent years.
This year’s state budget contains a six percent across-the-board cut to agencies such as NYSARC that provide helping services to citizens that the state does not directly serve.
The impact on the entire state NYSARC program is likely to reach $240 million less for their services this year, half from direct cuts by the state and another half from matching funds that won’t be attained.
“This cut took us by surprise,” said Daphne Pickert, executive director of St. Lawrence NYSARC.
“It just emerged Monday last week. This round is hitting everyone.”
“These cuts are catastrophic,” said NYSARC's state executive director, Marc Brandt, who is calling on the state Senate, Assembly, and the governor’s office to recerse that decision.
Those cuts “are in addition to the nearly $350 million in cuts developmental disabilities services have sustained over the past three years,” Brandt said.
Agencies throughout New York State care for 126,000 individuals with developmental disabilities. It is the largest system of its kind in the nation.
St. Lawrence NYSARC’s budget stands at about $29 million a year, with which they provide jobs and help with daily life for 750 individuals in the county who have developmental disabilities.
NYSARC employs dozens of programs, such as residential units that make for a home life and jobs that make for a work life for those who are able to participate, along with rehabilitation and care programs.
About 80 percent of the budget has come from Medicaid payments, which are to be cut. Another substantial fraction of the SLNYSARC budget comes from the payments employers make for the work that ARC clients do for them, such as janitorial work.
Brandt said that “We expect that many agencies will sharply curtail service and some may face closure” as they are unable to meet payroll and pay for goods and services.
“Many of these agencies serve vulnerable people, some of whom are medically frail, many of whom require 24-hour care. We don’t know what will happen with them. Many, particularly adults, have no families to step in should an agency fail. This is a recipe for disaster for this population.”
Furthermore, Brandt added, “the staff that provides hands-on care are already stretched to the breaking point from prior year cuts and a staggering onslaught of regulations.”
“Now, these cuts will push many of these staff beyond the breaking point,” Brandt said. “Many of people they care for will find their quality of care eroded and be exposed to far greater health and safety risks.”
With this cut in the works, on top of previous Medicaid cuts in 2010 and 2011 amounting to another $1.3 million from the St. Lawrence County program, expenses continue to rise, and Pickert is concerned about the viability of their services.
“We can’t absorb any more. We have to consider closing programs and laying off people.
“I hope we won’t have to confront this,” Pickert said.
“We will have to consider very carefully where we can afford to cut, from management all the way through.”
Pickert said they are looking at one out of every 10 employees for layoff, “at all levels of the organization, while still maintaining the level of quality of care.”
In addition, she expects they could lose one Seaway Industries Work Center and one day habilitation program
St. Lawrence NYSARC has operated and grown for more than 50 years since the group was formed by parents who were concerned about the quality of life and the future of their children with developmental disabilities.