Devastating Budget Cuts Threaten Services for New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities

Governor Cuomo has released his 30-day amendments to the proposed 2013-14 Executive Budget, which contain a $120 million cut in Medicaid funds to the NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Because each state dollar cut results in a $1 cut in federal Medicaid, the total cut to OPWDD, should the amendment be approved, will be $240 million. To handle the reduction, OPWDD Commissioner Courtney Burke has announced that cuts will be borne entirely by the voluntary not-for-profit OPWDD sector in the form of a 6% across the board cut in Medicaid reimbursements, effective April 1, 2013. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the voluntary agencies that provide supports and services to thousands of individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities throughout New York State.

Three such voluntary providers in Otsego County—The Arc Otsego, Pathfinder Village, and Springbrook—collectively provide critical services and supports to over 1,300 individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and employ over 1,500 people. The proposed 6% cuts would result in a $700,000-$800,000 cut for The Arc Otsego, a $300,000 cut for Pathfinder Village, and a $1.2 million cut for Springbrook.

Arc Otsego Executive Director Joe Judd, Pathfinder Village President and CEO Paul C. Landers, and Springbrook Chief Executive Officer Patricia Kennedy all note that the size of these cuts is unprecedented and devastating and that they threaten the health, safety, and quality of life for the people whom receive services from each agency. The cuts will lead to lower staffing ratios, reduced managerial oversight, an increased risk of administrative errors, loss of a significant number of jobs through attrition and direct layoff, and site closings.

Both Kennedy and Landers point out that these cuts are being proposed in addition to 3 consecutive years of fiscal and programmatic stagnation at OPWDD—year-after-year Medicaid reimbursement rate reductions and unfunded state mandates that began in 2011 and continue today. “It is a snowball effect and community providers such as Pathfinder Village, The Arc Otsego, and Springbrook cannot sustain much more of this,” says Landers.

“It is our collective responsibility to support our most vulnerable citizens and the impact of these cuts on their lives will be immeasurable. The loss in services, inevitable hardships faced by families, health and safety risks, and critical staff shortages will severely diminish their quality of life,” adds Kennedy.

Judd notes that the root cause of these cuts is the failure of New York State and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to effectively address Medicaid funding methodology.  “Over the last twenty years, OPWDD has developed the network of community supports based on the ever increasing utilization of Medicaid funds, as determined in agreement with CMS.  Now, the agreed upon funding methodology has been rescinded and the financial fallout is being passed on to the voluntary agencies creating a very unfair and unsafe situation for people with developmental disabilities.”

The Arc Otsego (working closely with parent organization NYSARC, Inc.), Pathfinder Village, and Springbrook will be working together and with other providers of services to raise awareness among state legislators and the community about the harmful impact of these wide-ranging cuts.

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