Friday, December 19, 2014

More money for intellectually disabled adults - but a long way to go in Pa.

Gov. Corbett increases funding for intellectually disabled adults this year, but he will need a lot more to get everyone off the waiting list for these services.

More money for intellectually disabled adults - but a long way to go in Pa.

File photo: An exclusive two-day affair for generous donors was underwritten partly by Gov. Corbett´s campaign fund, and administration officials say that no taxpayer dollars were used. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
File photo: An exclusive two-day affair for generous donors was underwritten partly by Gov. Corbett's campaign fund, and administration officials say that no taxpayer dollars were used. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Gov. Corbett on Wednesday said he would increase funding for intellectually disabled adults to $20 million in the state’s 2013-2014 budget, which will allow 1,200 people - 100 more than last year - to receive those services this year.

The additional money is only a small step toward eliminating the waiting list of 15,000 Pennsylvanians whose disabilities leave them unable to care for themselves and whose families can’t provide the necessary help. Of that figure, 4,000 are in the emergency category, meaning they need services, such as in-home care or a place in a group home, within the next six months.

Corbett, who says he wants to provide everyone on the list with the services they need by the end of his term as governor, said the $2.2 million in additional funding this year is a start. He expects it to provide community and home-based services for 1,200 people this year.

The governor, whose decisions to cut education and social-services dollars have hurt his popularity with voters, said that hearing the stories of disabled adults who don’t have consistent help moved him to act.

“We need to do a better job of looking after these citizens, who, through no failing of their own, cannot look after themselves,” he said during a visit to the United Way offices in Center City. Vision For Equality, a Philadelphia group that advocates for the disabled, arranged meetings between Corbett and families with disabled loved ones.

Corbett said the waiting list grew over many years and will take many years to shrink. He could not put a price tag on how much the effort would cost.

Billy Keogh, 33, of Northeast Philadelphia is among those waiting for help. He and his family sat in the audience Wednesday as Corbett made the announcement. Keogh had lived with his mother and father, but they died within 10 weeks of each other last year. Since then, six of his relatives have taken turns caring for him. Keogh is on the autistic spectrum, said his aunt, Trish Farkas, who worries about who will provide for Billy when she and other relatives get too old. As she and other relatives have spent more time with Billy, he has expressed interest in new activities. He has asked to wear a necktie, for example, because he sees his male relatives with them.

“It tells us there is a lot of capability there, but we really need the professional help to bring that out,” Farkas said.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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