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Smith: State budget cuts would hurt The Arc


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va.  — The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley has a stake in program cuts on the state level, its executive director said on Tuesday.

Representatives of The Arc, a group serving residents with developmental disabilities, will be at an event with the Secretary Bill J. Crouch of the Department of Health and Human Resources at 1:30 p.m. today at the Wood County Senior Citizens Association to promote Gov. Jim Justice’s budget he proposed to the Republican-controlled Legislature.

More cuts to the Title XIX I/DD waiver program allowing residents with developmental disabilities to remain in residential settings in the community rather than in an institution will obliterate the program, said Christina Smith, executive director of The Arc. Cuts from several years ago severely reduced the scope of services that could be provided, she said.

“It cannot sustain any more cuts,” Smith said.

Gov. Jim Justice on Monday announced and described his alternative budget proposal to the Legislature, where the controlling Republicans are generally opposed to higher taxes. The alternative budget softens some of the earlier proposed increases.

Justice, who campaigned on no tax increases, Monday said he was not opposed to reductions, provided they do not “cripple” the state. The governor and the Legislature, besides a shortage of about $123 million in this fiscal year, are trying to plug an anticipated $450 million hole in the 2018 budget.

A budget that uses cuts to entirely find $450 million would cause the elimination of more than 3,000 jobs. That budget includes the 25 percent cut to the detailing put forth by the governor several weeks ago in the event the Legislature I/DD program, which allows residents to keep some independence rather than be placed in an institutional setting, and total elimination of the XIX Waiver for Seniors.

“We realize the state is in a dire financial situation,” Smith said. “We understand that.”

But the cost to place someone in an institution is far greater than helping them stay in their home or other residential setting, Smith said. Per person per year, it costs the state $121,000 to keep someone in an institution and $77,000 a year in a nursing home, she said.

“It is far more cost effective than institutionalization,” Smith said.

Justice’s secretaries have been sent around the state to encourage support for his budget proposal. Veterans Assistance Secretary Dennis E. Davis was in Parkersburg last week.

Today’s event at the senior center is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and will highlight alternative cuts to the Justice’s plan and the Aged and Disabled Waiver Program, which also enables senior citizens who can to remain in their home.

“If they cut anymore, my home will become a prison,” said Kevin Smith, who is among the people impacted by the cuts to the I/DD waiver program over the last two years. With the reduction in the level of assistance at home, Smith said he has made drastic changes to his lifestyle, such as having to go to bed at 5 p.m.

“What lawmaker lives their life like that,” said Smith, no relation to Christina.

About 300 people are on the I/DD waiver in Wood County.

Smith said his wife died in November and in August he will have to get a roommate. If he refuses, Smith said he could lose the waiver.

“Someone will just show up one day to move in, even though my name is on the deed,” he said. “And since I own my home free and clear, that roommate doesn’t have to pay me any rent. I would have to open up my private bills and that person will pay half. “

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