Governor Shapiro’s Budget is a Lifeline for Families and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism

Disability Advocates Meeting with Gov Josh ShapiroFrom left to right: Nancy Murray, then President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh; Sherri Laddis, Executive Director of The Arc of PA; Gov. Shapiro; Cindy Jennings, mom of Matt Jennings (front), Judy Smith, Matt’s Grandmother and Ruth Siegfried, President of InVision Human Services. /Submitted Image
Op-Ed by Nancy Murray

As someone who has dedicated a 40+ year career to advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and families, I have known thousands of families who have waited for desperately needed services. Today, I thank Governor Josh Shapiro for listening to families and making a commitment to them by proposing a historic increase in funding that will provide urgently needed services for more than half of the people on Pennsylvania’s emergency waiting list. In addition, the Governor’s budget proposes an investment in the state set rates for intellectual disability and autism services that will help to increase the salaries of thousands of direct support professionals.

Throughout my career, I have helped countless families navigate Pennsylvania’s educational, health care and disability service systems. I have advocated with them for more funding for critically needed housing, home and community and long-term care services. The conversations with single caregivers and elderly parents are always the most gut-wrenching. These families face each day with the fear of what would happen to their son, daughter, brother or sister if they could no longer provide the care due to illness or an accident. Across Pennsylvania, there are more than 5,000 families who are terrified of just that.

Finally, there is real hope. Governor Shapiro and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Dr. Val Arkoosh, heard the fear, frustration and despair from families and have stepped forward with a commitment that services will be provided. During his budget address in February, Governor Shapiro spoke from his heart about learning about the fears and struggles that families experience in providing 24/7 care for their loved ones. He introduced those gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to Cindy Jennings from Lancaster County, who represents the more than 5,000 families on the emergency waiting list who are single caregivers and who cannot find direct support professionals to help care for their loved ones. He spoke passionately about the need to address the systemic issues that have perpetuated this crisis, emphasizing the importance of adequate funding and fair wages for direct support professionals.

READ:  Big Win for Education and Economy as Pennsylvania Passes $47.59B Budget

Support for this proposal should not be politicized or be a partisan issue. Families, individuals on the waiting list and direct support professionals who deserve fair wages live in all legislative districts. Funding for the waiting list and rate increases for intellectual disability services merit unanimous support from the General Assembly. It is time for all members of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate to prioritize the proposed funding for intellectual disability services.

Governor Shapiro’s budget recommendations are not just numbers on a page. They represent a lifeline for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism and their families.

Nancy Murray serves as the Chair of The Provider Alliance Government Affairs Committee

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.