Thursday, May 10, 2012

Local programs. Local budget cuts. Can they affect my child?

Our son is not old enough to be involved in a lot of the programs offered by state and local organizations. I do know many young adults through our local Special Olympics program that are involved in a lot of these programs.  What a blessing and a chance for folk with disabilities to live a normal life.  

With all of the state and local budget cuts, usually one of the first programs to go are program for folk with disabilities.  After all, can they really complain?  Who is going to advocate for these programs?  What if all of these programs are gone by the time my son is old enough to participate?

This program is local to my family.  Now what?  This article was in the Sacarmento Bee.

Thursday, May. 10, 2012

Recreational program for disabled at risk from Sacramento budget cuts 

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Robert Hulse loves his pizza and movie nights.
The 35-year-old with Down syndrome meets with other teens and adults with developmental disabilities through various activities put on by Sacramento's Access Leisure program. He said his involvement in the program is one of the only chances he gets to interact with his peers.
"I get to have fun with my friends," Hulse said. "I want to keep this program. It's a great pedestal to be on, and a good way to get out into the community."
Call The Bee's Timothy Sandoval, (916) 321-1018.

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But all that may go away.
The 46-year-old program that provides 88 recreational and fitness activities a year such as dances, dinners, movie nights, day trips and camps to Sacramento's adults and teens with developmental disabilities is slated to be cut next month under a budget proposal by the city Department of Parks and Recreation.
Access Leisure also holds sports leagues for physically and developmentally disabled children, and activities for Sacramento's wounded veterans. Those programs also are in jeopardy.
"It's really all up in the air," said Annie Desalernos, program supervisor for Access Leisure.
In total, the operating budget for the program this year was about $550,000.
Alan Tomiyama, the parks department's recreation manager, said fundraising and attendance for Access Leisure programs have been down in recent years.
Access Leisure staff needed to recover about $408,500 through fundraising and attendance fees from participants, but were able to raise only about $44,300 so far. That left a hole of more than $360,000 for the department's budget.
"The department no longer has funds available to help support this shortfall, so reductions to Access Leisure must be addressed," Tomiyama said in an email.
Tomiyama said the department needs about $150,000 from the City Council in additional funds to keep intact some social and fitness programs for disabled adults and teens under Access Leisure.
The city is seeking ways to restore the programs, but it is uncertain how much may be restored, if any, he said.
"They are the ultimate deciders," he said. "You never say never."
Philip Sinclair, a program coordinator for Access Leisure, said the cuts would be tough on the 500 people who use the services.
"These are programs they can call their own," he said. "With these cuts, they would lose that kind of social activity."
At the last two City Council meetings, dozens of disabled residents and parents spoke out against the cuts.
Many noted that the program provided safe events where Sacramento's developmentally disabled could socialize. Without the services, many said they would not have the resources to participate in social activities.
On Monday, 30 people participating in the program filed into a room at the Hart Senior Center on 27th and J streets to watch "Happy Feet Two" and eat pizza. Participants were charged $8 for the event.
Tom Ahern said his daughter Jessica, who has multiple disabilities, has participated in events with Access Leisure since she was 14.
"Her social life revolves around this," he said. "This gives her a place to go and interact. The biggest problem with this community is that they are isolated socially, and it's like solitary confinement if they do not have somewhere to go. This is a godsend."
Jessica, 26, motioned with her hands and said she liked the program and would be sad if it were to go away.
On May 15, the Department of Parks and Recreation will present its budget proposal to the City Council.

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Be gentle.

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