HUNTINGTON— A program that helps developmentally disabled West Virginians will face a 25 percent cut unless state lawmakers agree to Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed budget and its tax increases, a top state official said.
Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch delivered the message at a Friday event in Huntington. Crouch said if lawmakers refuse to support the governor’s budget, a large number of vulnerable people will suffer, according to media reports.
“The alternative (budget) is truly frightening to me,” he told a crowded room of special-needs families and caretakers.
The focus was on the state’s Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver Program, which provides in-home and community based services. The program helps more than 4,600 developmentally disabled people live somewhat independently.
Crouch said a 25 percent cut would slice $22 million from the waiver program’s budget and would likely lead to a cut in services and in the number of slots available for the program.
The program serves people who have diagnoses that include autism, Down syndrome and spina bifida. The state already has more people who need the program than can get on the waiver program. The waiting list includes 1,260 people, Crouch said.
The state just added 50 more slots and would like to add more, but that depends on the budget, he said.
Among those in the audience were Stephanie Jackson and her 14-year-old son, Braden Jackson, of Wayne, who has autism and receives services through the IDD waiver. Jackson worried whether her son will have as much of an opportunity to live on his own in a few years, and of the financial burden living without the waiver could put on her and her husband.
“We have to plan for our own retirement, but if we lose services through the waiver, we’re going to have to plan for him to have a retirement once we’re gone,” Jackson said. “That’s a retirement that would have to include personnel for him to live independently 24/7.”
Among Justice’s proposed tax increases are a half-cent increase to the state sales tax, an increase in DMV fees from $30 to $50 and raising the cost of tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike by $1.
“Some might believe that executing detrimental cuts is the only solution, but Gov. Justice does not believe that,” Crouch said. “He’s presented a better option. His budget will save services in West Virginia.”