Prisoners of the StateWritten by Ron Cohen
I recently read a letter from a Mom. Her son has cerebral palsy and mental retardation. He lives in a group home and attends an adult day program during the day. In her letter, she stated that she, "...wishes her son was on death row". That’s right. She goes to sleep at night, wishing her son was sitting in prison on death row.
In this year’s California budget, the group home her son lives in received a 10% funding reduction. Her son’s day program received a 4.25% funding cut after years and years of never seeing a funding increase. Her fear, as she hears of other programs that are closing, is that one day her son’s group home will be forced to close, along with her son’s day program. And if she is not here; if her life follows the natural order that she will pass away before her son, who will be there to take care of him? Who will provide for him? So in her letter, she said, “If my son were on death row, he would be guaranteed a home for life. Someone would watch him and care for him 24 hours a day. He would be given medical attention when he becomes ill and he would get dental care when he needs it. I can pass away in peace, knowing my son will always be taken care of, because he is on death row.”
As a provider, we face the challenge of keeping our programs open every day. The state continues to lower and freeze our reimbursement rates. What other business can survive under these conditions? UCP might be a non-profit with a mission to serve people, but the same principle applies as with any business . . . if our expenses exceed our revenues we can’t stay in business. Because of the generous community and the contributions we receive, our group homes remain open today. But if the State of California continues to decimate the safety net that we provide to those with developmentally disabilities (autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, etc.) eventually, I’m afraid, our community developmental disability system will not be sustainable.
It’s a sad state of affairs when we guarantee housing, medical care, vocational training and 24-hour supervision for prisoners, but neglect those with developmental disabilities who ask only for the dignity and respect that they deserve.
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