Friday, February 26, 2010

Maryland disability advocates protest state budget cuts

From News Channel 8 in Maryland:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Hundreds of disabled people marched to the statehouse in Annapolis Thursday demanding more help as state budget cuts threaten to hurt their quality of life.

Anissa Brown was among the hundreds of people with developmental disabilities and their supporters. She says the marchers are trying "to get them not to cut the budget anymore."

Brian Saal was also present during the march. "More money. We need more money," Saal said.

Among the participants were parents who say they are burned out and stressed out from caring for their children without any help.

Beth Monroe's daughter has been waiting 11 years to get services.

"Right now, I can't die. There is no one to take care of her. She is not part of a system," Monroe said.

State funding cuts coupled with increased need have left programs and people struggling. More than 19,000 people now on the waiting list for assistance.

We've had to shrink programs, we've had to consolidate group homes, we've had to do many, many things to keep our budget balanced, and every time we turn around, there's another cut," said Frank Zappala with Arc of Montgomery County (web | news) .

Mike Knox, 35, has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and the Arc of Montgomery County, which provides support and services for people with developmental disabilities and their families, has had to cut back on helping him find a job.

"Even though I am in a wheelchair...I am still thirsty for work and I am still like everyone else. I deserve that chance," Knox said.

Advocates for the disabled are lobbying for a 10 cent tax on alcoholic drinks and other cost-sharing measures, and are taking the message directly to lawmakers.

The protesters say Maryland is among the nation's richest states, but ranks 43rd in the amount of money spent on services for people with developmental disabilities.