New York's group homes face painful funding cuts

Konnor Rampe, 22, has been living in state-run group homes for the past four years. 

"As Konnor began to get bigger and approach me in size and his behaviors became more unmanageable, we were left with no choice but to rely on the services provided by these residential institutions and homes," Chris Rampe, a parent, said.  

If funding is cut to these homes, the lives of nearly 38,000 individuals with disabilities in New York who reside in a resident setting would be drastically impacted. 

The special-needs community is already feeling the impact. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is withholding 20% of state reimbursements to offset federal aid that ended. On Oct. 1, the Office for People With Disabilities, which operates the group homes, is set to slash the reimbursement rates for empty beds for residents who go home for a night or are hospitalized.

Suzanne Reek received an email from her son Joseph's group home notifying her of these changes.

"They're going to be getting 50% less in reimbursement rates from the state," said Reek, a parent and executive director of the Autism Society's Nassau/Suffolk Chapter. "It's frightening because there's a shortage of housing on Long Island as it is."

And this is not just happening on Long Island. Parents across the state are facing the same hardships.

Laura and Henry Kennedy's daughter Julia receives 24-hour care in a Staten Island home. 

"What's coming down the pipe now is a crescendo or cuts that could impact her ability to be well cared for," Laura Kennedy said.

Susan Constantino, the president and CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, is asking the governor for help. 

"Tell us the amount and let us come to you with how we think we could do this versus you taking 20% off everything because this will hurt more," she said. 

OPWDD said the budget enacted by the legislature required savings so the agency chose to preserve critical services rather than fund empty beds. In a statement, the director of communications said OPWDD encourages providers and families to call on the federal government to provide the agency with the resources it needs to support our most vulnerable neighbors.

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