Parents Of Intellectually Disabled Adult Children Fear Funding Cuts

Mary Wilson & Essential Public Radio Staff March 29, 2012

Dozens of adults with intellectual disabilities and their parent caretakers are warning that cutting funds for the programs they use will mean fewer services, longer waiting lists, and a lower quality of life for their families.

The governor’s budget proposal would eliminate 20 percent of the funding for several Department of Public Welfare programs, including some that serve people with intellectual disabilities.

Maureen Westcott of Dauphin County, whose daughter has intellectual disabilities, is an advocate for The Arc of Pennsylvania. She 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.

“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,” Westcott said.

Several parents say state-funded programs are the reason they can keep working, and leave their adult children with caretakers during part of the day. Carol Perlowski of Monroe County says she fears cuts to state programs that help her adult son live and work in a community will mean longer waiting lists and more adults with intellectual disabilities living in institutions.

“It has taken Pennsylvanians fifty years of hard work to build community-based supports and programs for these people after they graduate from high school,” Perlowski said. “Are we supposed to be satisfied with a state institution for our sons and daughters?”

While the Department of Public Welfare says reduced funding won’t mean fewer services, a coalition of disability advocates is suing the agency and the Corbett Administration for proposing the cuts.