At a meeting of disability advocates last week in Concord, a trio of local lawmakers -- State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, State Rep. Jay Kaufman and State Sen. Mike Barrett -- praised the group’s work and urged more funding for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
The state budget for the fiscal year that began in July restores a modest amount of money for human services efforts that “have taken it on the chin since the onset of the recession,” said Barrett, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.
Arc of Massachusetts, founded in the 1950s, works to improve public policy for people with disabilities. Minute Man Arc, which covers local communities, serves more than 1,000 children and adults across Middlesex County.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) noted the recent budget increases, highlighting the successful efforts of those in attendance. “I hope you feel a sense of pride in your advocacy,” Eldridge said. “It really made a difference.”
State Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) added that he wants to harness the passion of self-advocates, volunteers and professionals to push for more services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. “We need that energy to fight this fight,” said Kaufman. “Make your voices heard.”
Fifty percent of the clients Minute Man serves are children three years of age or younger, enrolled in Arc’s early intervention program. The organization offers speech, occupational and physical therapy; nursing services; and playgroups with a focus on children with autism. Last year, 52 percent of children who received such support at Minute Man needed no additional services after graduating from the program.
The new appropriations boost direct program funding for children with autism by nearly $1 million. Equally significant were boosts of $58 million in salary accounts for staffers of community-based residential programs for adults with cognitive challenges. In addition, the Dept. of Disability Services’ Turning 22 program, which helps young people with Down syndrome and other cognitive challenges transition to self-directed adulthood, won a nearly 10% increase.