Parents, advocates again take aim at Pa.’s planned human services cuts

    Some parents of intellectually disabled adult children are voicing their concerns about potential cuts to Pennsylvania funding for programs they use.

    They say funding reductions will make a difficult situation worse.

    Karen Johns’ son will have to apply to receive services for people with intellectual disabilities when he turns 21.

    The Lehigh County nurse says she’s afraid funding cuts will make long waiting lists for services even longer, and her family will have trouble tending to her son, Chris.

    “Due to Chris’ lack of safety awareness, he needs constant supervision. Our house is like Fort Knox. You need a key or a code to get in or out. If a door is accidentally left open, Chris will wander away,” Johns said.

    Other parents say they fear they’ll have to send their adult children to institutions, or quit their jobs to provide round-the-clock care.

    Programs for the intellectually disabled are grouped in with other Department of Public Welfare services that have been targeted for a 20 percent funding cut.

    While Gov. Tom Corbett has said new rules for spending those dollars will help counties save enough to offset the cuts, county commissioners have said they don’t think they can absorb a $168 million loss.

    Maureen Westcott, an advocate for The Arc of Pennsylvania, says the state dollars on the budget chopping block pay for services that, if left unfunded, will force people to use options that are ultimately more expensive for the commonwealth.

    “And when we go into the more costly fixes, we’re going to be utilizing emergency room visits, possible institutionalization, and in-patient correctional facilities admissions because of these reductions in these funds,” said Westcott, who has a daughter with intellectual disabilities, during a Thursday hearing before the state House Human Services Committee.

    The panel’s chairman says he’ll fight the cuts.

    Meanwhile, the Corbett administration and the Department of Public Welfare face a lawsuit from disability rights advocates for proposing the cuts.

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