Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers Question Service Changes For Disabled

ALBANY (AP) Several New York state lawmakers raised concerns Tuesday about federal and state policies to move more disabled people from institutions to community residences and managed care for medical treatment.

The state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities currently supports 38,000 New Yorkers in residences and 80,000 with day services. It has about 400 people in institutional settings, a total the agency plans to reduce to 150, Deputy Commissioner Helen DeSanto told lawmakers.

She said the state plans to close its Brooklyn Developmental Center campus at the end of this year, the Binghamton-area campus by next March 31 and the Queens campus by March 2017.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who chairs the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, said she agrees independence is best but each community and case has to be considered.

She and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, a Binghamton Democrat, said many people in those facilities represent the most complicated cases of behavioral and health problems. Some are elderly, some incontinent, some can't feed themselves, some need the care of two staff people around the clock, Gunther said.

"I'm not saying that person doesn't deserve independent living, but there's a reality of the situation how many dollars go around,'' Gunther said. "I don't know how you get to 150 without evaluating each and every person in a state facility, what exactly their needs are.

"These are families that are begging for quality of life for a child that's born with a disability,'' she said. "And I think it's our responsibility in government to make sure we can give them the assurances and that we do look at the individuals and the individual areas.''

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court called for ending segregation of disabled Americans, moving them to community-based services. New York subsequently developed plans to implement this move.

Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, a Westchester Democrat, said the move to managed care raises many issues, including a shift from home care to behavioral, psychological and other services at brick and mortar locations.  

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.