Advocacy groups change focus as state funding cuts loom

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) State lawmakers will reconvene in less than two weeks for a special budget session.

Governor John Bel Edwards called for one to address a more than 300 (m) million dollar budget deficit.

Lawmakers will consider cuts as so many groups are concerned about their funding.

On Wednesday, advocates from the state’s waiver program held a legislative round-table at the Lafayette Parish Library in Downtown Lafayette.

The program lets residents with developmental disabilities opt out of institutionalized services and instead receive help living on their own.

According to the Louisiana Council’s Advocacy network, there are over 14,000 people on the waiver waiting list. Those at the top of the list have been waiting over 12 years for help.

Self-advocate Kristopher Hebert was born with a disability and had to live in a community group home.

He finally received help to obtain supportive living.

“I moved out and into my own apartment and since I moved out I’ve be able to do so many things.”

Hebert says he’s been able to do what many have said he wouldn’t be able to do.

He and others are fearful that what they hold dear will be taken away from them by state budget cuts.

Hebert says the staff members who visit him are critical to his survival.  They help with his medication, manage bills and help with basic life skills that many people take for granted.

“If we don’t stop the cuts, then they cut our staff. The staff is our backbone.”

Senator Fred Mills and Senator Eric Lafleur were among the speakers at the round-table.  Mills says he hopes the state will avoid making cuts to the program. Lafluer believes that during the regular legislative session, lawmakers will discuss fiscal reform and ways to find sustainable revenue sources.

“The waiting list as we heard today is over 11 years old and that’s a long time to wait for services,” says Mills.

“We should have a viable structural measure in place that will provide for revenue we can rely on.  Families helping Families of Acadiana Executive Director Mauricia Walters is more than a advocate. Her son lives with a disability.

“Those are needs and services that our families need to live. It’s not something that we pick and choose for vacation purposes. It’s to live a typical and normal life; which we don’t know what typical and normal is,” adds Lafleur.

Mills says the special legislative session begins February 13th.



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