Disabled fear more budget cuts

Jody Barker, who has cerebral palsy, moved into his own digs two years ago, after struggling for seven years to reach that level of independence.

He did that with help from an assortment of individuals and programs that assist folks who carry the label “developmentally disabled.”

Now Barker sees those programs in jeopardy, people who help them possibly losing their jobs, and his own future and that of others like him looking grim and even dangerous.

The cause of that angst is Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, which contains $750 million in cuts this fiscal year to programs for the developmentally disabled. Budgets for the disabled have already been cut about $500 million over the past few years.

Barker and 100 others — some of them disabled, others family members, caregivers and friends — gathered opposite the County Government Center on Thursday for a midday rally to protest the cuts.

Those attending, many of them in wheelchairs, held signs that stated, “we are people first,” “no more cuts,” “enough is enough” and other slogans.

“We’re all trying to save our services,” Barker said.

Those who receive services include people who have cerebral palsy, autism, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

There are about 5,200 people in those categories in northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Organizer David Mulvey, a social worker, said recipients benefit from a broad range of services, including help with speech, learning to work, going to adult day programs, help in the home, and transportation to services, among others.

Mulvey argued that one of the state’s basic functions is to help people who cannot help themselves.

Seeking to close a $25 billion budget hole, Brown, who took office in January, is proposing large cuts everywhere, as well as asking voters to extend some taxes that are due to expire.

He said during his state-of-the-state address earlier this week that he has heard howls of pain from everyplace. Nevertheless, cuts must be made, he said.

Debra McNulty, whose adult son, Jason Hogue, is disabled, argues that it is a mistake to cut money for disabled services because that money is put back into the economy.

She added that if the reductions are large enough, not only would aid workers lose their jobs, but some people now in the work force would have to stay home and take care of disabled relatives.

The dozen or so speakers sought to rally those facing cuts to pressure the Legislature to resist reducing budgets. They urged writing letters and sought to sign up people for a bus trip to Sacramento.

There was a strong undercurrent of fear from speakers, saying what they see as gains made over four decades would slip away.

Cecile Alessi of Paso Robles, whose daughter has Down syndrome, warned against a return to what she described as “the dark ages of the 1950s and 1960s,” when people with disabilities were little understood, feared, warehoused and often mistreated.

She said she can recall the “horrible ‘R’ word, which still brings tears to my eyes.” She would not speak the word — retarded — but said her “R words” of choice for the disabled today are remarkable, resilient and resourceful.