Many years ago, during one of our more trying days at the Indiana General Assembly, I made the trip to Rushville to speak at the Rush County Arc annual dinner. I must admit on that day I was weary, feeling the weight of the people who did not believe in what we were trying to do. A moment from that night remains in great clarity with me today.
I was talking with one of our founders, who at that time was just months away from having to move into a nursing home as she was becoming more and more frail. This woman, who started organizing our movement in 1949, asked me how things were going. And in a self-indulgent moment I complained about the folks who just did not understand how difficult it was to get legislators to move forward. She looked at me – all 5 foot 2 inches and probably 95 pounds of her – and gave me a stern look. She waved her hand around, and said, “Look at all we have accomplished, more than I ever dreamed of!” Then she looked me square in the eye and said, “John, when do you ever think it was easy.”
That message has stayed with me these many years. We certainly are in no easy times. The announcements over the last two days that FSSA is making cuts to funding in Voc. Rehab. and Medicaid Waivers bring more challenges to us. The economic realities the state faces is making life more challenging for people with disabilities and their families. Yet, it is important to put things in context.
The $30 million cut from the Medicaid Waiver program is very significant. But what remains is nearly $470 million dollars a year. The $12 million cut in the group home program is also significant. But what remains is just under $400 million. The overall budget for DDRS this year is over $1 billion and serves 17,500 people. I remember in the early 80s when we were working hard to establish just 50 new group home beds for the entire state.
These cuts are going to be very difficult to absorb, and as we said in our statement yesterday, we need to find new answers, including eliminating bureaucracy and needless paperwork that adds no value to people’s lives. But we also have to look to more than just what we have always done. We are doing this through our Building Pathways to Empowerment campaign.
It has never been easy, and will not be so for a long time, but people are counting on us, both those who have help today, and those facing a waiting list decades long. Thanks for all you do.