Services for Maryland's disabled people are at risk as the state faces a budget squeeze.
Gov. Martin O'Malley is not sure whether there will be a supplemental state budget this year, a spokesman said, and the governor's spending plan under General Assembly consideration has troubling gaps in it for the Developmental Disabilities Administration.
Howard County legislators are hoping to tweak the budget to at least restore $100,000 for a self-advocacy network program that is staffed by people with disabilities and helps others make better lives for themselves.
Stanley Daniello, a member of the government affairs committee of the Arc of Howard County, made several points in testifying before county legislators Feb. 8 in Ellicott City about a lack of funding for several programs. They included:
• $10 million more needed to reduce the 16,000-person waiting list for services. Included are 700 disabled people in Howard County. Daniello said 41 percent of services requested are in the crisis/emergency categories.
• Another $10 million needed to fully fund a cost-of-living increase that the General Assembly included in legislation last year. That funding bill called for a 3.87 percent increase to compensate for higher costs, while the governor's budget for fiscal 2008 includes a 2 percent increase.
• No state money to match first-year federal funding under a grant that pays to move people from state hospitals to community-based group homes. During the first year of the grant, the federal program will pay 75 percent of the costs if the state pays the rest.
Carol A. Beatty, executive director of the Arc for Howard County, said the state, under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., last year included $10 million in the budget for the waiting list. That money helped 1,000 people and their families. But this year, she said, that funding is not in the O'Malley administration's first budget.
Beatty said that all these services are very important. There are disabled people who have lived at home for years but need to move to a group home as their parents get older and are less able to care for them. Other families need physical help lifting profoundly disabled children, or help caring for a child while the parents work.
"Sometimes, it's overwhelming to families," Beatty said.
Scott M. Uhl, acting director of the Developmental Disabilities Administration, said Daniello's figures are accurate, but "the state has a revenue picture that's not very rosy."
The federal/state matching funds grant was approved after the state budget was compiled, he said.
"The question becomes, 'Does the state have the money for additional requests?' We all want the services," Uhl said.
State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Democrat and Senate majority leader who also chairs the subcommittee on the DDA budget, said he feels money can be shifted from whatever the General Assembly cuts from the Health Department budget to pay for the self-advocacy network.
This story appears in the Sun, at this link. You need to read through to the second header though.