Rally to save community services

    Advocates for Pennsylvanians with mental illness and intellectual disabilities say they don’t have a good “Plan B,” if the legislature adopts Governor Rendell’s proposed cuts.

    Advocates for Pennsylvanians with mental illness and intellectual disabilities say they don’t have a good “Plan B,” if the legislature adopts Governor Rendell’s proposed cuts.
    (Photo: The Pennsylvania Community Provider Association rallied consumers in Harrisburg.)

    After last year’s state budget cuts, providers say they had to leave important staff positions unfilled. Some agencies are still paying interest on loans they took out to meet payroll during the 2009 budget stalemate.

    Rita Cisneros, who’s battled depression, rallied the crowd at the Capitol rotunda with a t-shirt that said “Not Again”

    Cisneros: So legislators: ‘Stop cutting our funding, and help us to help ourselves in the communities in which we live.’

    Rita Cisneros spoke at the Capitol Tuesday urging lawmakers to protect funding for community mental health services.
    Rita Cisneros spoke at the Capitol Tuesday urging lawmakers to protect funding for community mental health services.
    Bob Baker is with Keystone Human Services which operates group homes in Montgomery County and throughout the state. He says this year funding cuts would hurt more than staff wages.

    Baker: The scariest thing that slips is that we can’t afford to invest in our homes and automobiles the way we want to. The little maintenance that you can put off this year, gets put off, then it gets put off again.

    Governor Rendell’s state budget proposal cuts intellectual disability funding by 1 percent, or about $6 million.

    Alan Hartl leads the Lenape Valley Foundation in Doylestown. He says the proposed reduction means Pennsylvania would also lose $11 million in matching federal funds.

    He says people with mental illness and mental retardation can stay productive, if they have the right support.

    Hartl: We take the service to them in the community even if they’re homeless, we find them on the street and provide them a team. We take people who before coming to the program, typically have about two years of in-patient, hospitalization. Within the first three years we have that average down to less than one day a year.

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