MEETING A NEED: West Bay Residential Services’ Day Activities Director Penny Merris shares a laugh with client Rebecca Beaton. The Warwick facility is one of several serving the developmentally disabled struggling to absorb state budget cuts.
Programs at Seven Hills Rhode Island have been moved into crowded buildings already short on space. There’s less continuity for clients with staff members, many of whom have concerns about job security following layoffs.
All are the results of state funding cuts, says Bill Stock, vice president of government and community relations for the foundation that runs the Woonsocket facility.
“Obviously we’ll exhaust all efforts to keep programs open, but down the road, if appropriate funding isn’t in place, as an organization you have to take a serious look at the programs and decide whether it’s worth keeping them going,” he said.
The facility, for people with developmental disabilities that provides services ranging from residential support to adult day care, and similar agencies around the state are struggling to deal with the effects of a $24 million cut in state support for such services this fiscal year. Seven Hills is faced with a $2.5 million cut, a 27 percent reduction of state support from the previous year. While the agencies say they need more funding to survive without even deeper cuts, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has proposed level funding for fiscal 2013.
The cuts at Seven Hills Rhode Island have already forced the organization to close one location, move programs, lay off 56 employees and make cuts to salaries and benefits for the estimated 1,000 employees who remain.
“It’s not a good situation for any of us,” said Stock, “whether it’s the organization, the employees or the individuals we serve. These are deep, deep, budget cuts.”
The agencies and unions who represent employees at some of the facilities have begun separate lobbying efforts to convince the governor and General Assembly to restore as much of the funding cut in this year’s budget as possible.
Christine Hunsinger, spokeswoman for Gov. Lincoln D Chafee, said the decision ultimately lies with the General Assembly.
“If revenue continues [to] trend in a positive direction, Gov. Chafee would expect the General Assembly would make some decisions regarding cuts that should be reinstated,” she said.