Editorial: Save vulnerable New Yorkers from state budget cuts
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There's no convincing reason for developmentally disabled people, the state's most vulnerable population, to pay the price for a decades-long Albany billing snafu with Washington.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants a $120 million cut, across-the-board, in funding for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which allocates money to nonprofits. Earlier this week, the Assembly and the Senate restored the entire amount in their budget bills. These organizations, which provide services far more efficiently than the state, take care of children, teens and adults with all levels of disability, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other developmental challenges.
They provide full- and part-time care, education and medical services, and address other highly specialized needs by providing labor-intensive assistance around the clock. In some cases, people with disabilities can't speak, hear, walk or see -- or even brush their own teeth or hair.
For organizations in Suffolk County, a $120 million cut strips more than $18 million from providers; in Nassau, it would translate to roughly $17 million. Statewide there would be job cuts, reduced services, and in some rare cases, closed programs.
This hole in the state budget came after the federal government found it was overcharged billions of dollars in Medicaid money because New York, for years, charged the federal government an agreed-upon rate for institutional care though the state has largely been deinstitutionalized. The money was spent on disabled patients in other ways. An audit found that roughly $15 billion was overpaid.
Now that the first bill from Washington has come due, Cuomo is trying to find the cash. While the system needs reforms -- a more regional approach, consolidation of redundant programs and the sharing of services -- meaningful changes require a thoughtful and methodical approach. That can't be accomplished on such short notice.