SBRN Executive Director Speaks at New Jersey Department of Human Services Budget Forum

Flemington, NJ: On December 3, 2009 the Executive Director of the Spina Bifida Resource Network, Ms. Julia McConnell appeared at the New Jersey Department of Human Services Budget Forum in Trenton.

Ms. McConnell stated that she was fearful the current economic climate  may cause cuts in services can lead to poor care associated with Institutionalization that can happen without notice if cuts continue to be made to services for people with Developmental Disabilities.

She urged the upcoming budget preparation should be based upon sound values that were established back in the 1970’s whereby each and every person with a Developmental Disability has the right to a full and varied life that includes  living safely, being contributing members in communities, participating in activities and recreation, enjoying meaningful relationships with family, friends and neighbors and the opportunity to work and study.

She added that the cost associated with providing care have far surpassed the moneys allowed in current provider contracts.  She recommended increases such as in gas and energy costs, health insurance costs, as well as workers compensation costs be included in the upcoming budget.

Ms. McConnell also stated that one of New Jersey’s greatest resources are the families who care for their children with disabilities at home.  These families understand that the current budget crisis means less family support dollars which should not be cut. She commended Assistant Commissioner Ritchey and his staff for the work they have done with drawing down waiver dollars to support community care services.  She stated there is more work to be done by looking at efficiencies in utilization of dollars and creating solutions to continue maximizing federal dollars with more creative programmatic solutions for maximizing federal waiver dollars that need to be included in the new budget. Ms. McConnell concluded by asking the budget committee to remember that our families are the backbone of New Jersey’s developmental disabilities system.  Without them, the system simply cannot support the number of people who need a high level of day-to-day care. She urged that the state work to meet the needs of care giving families which is both the cost effective and morally right thing to do.

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