NY shouldn’t close sheltered workshops to detriment of people with disabilities

Posted 5 October 2015 at 12:00 am


It is a disgrace that New York State is phasing out the sheltered workshops that serve people with developmental disabilities.

These workshops provide valuable work for people. Because of the workshops, these individuals are productive wage earners and perform beneficial subcontract work for businesses in the area. Realistically, there are not enough suitable jobs in the community to support the number of people currently employed in the workshops.

Closing these workshops is a way for the state to save money, plain and simple. The state paints a picture that it’s better for them to be integrated into the community, but the bottom line is money.

Over the last 20 years, the state has changed funding for non-profit services so that the state doesn’t have to pay 100 percent of the cost of these programs. Back in the mid-1990s, the state “medicaided” many of the services provided to individuals with developmental disabilities. So instead of the state paying 100 percent of residential services, they paid about half and also pushed a portion of these costs to the counties (county share of Medicaid costs). For years the workshops were sacred cows, but the state must really be hurting for money now.

Here’s how the state can save a lot of money – privatize all the duplicate services that they are currently providing at a much higher cost than the private non-profits do. Then maybe the non-profits could pay a fair wage to direct care workers, equivalent to what the state pays. And the state could also rebuild deteriorating bridges (especially in Orleans County) with the savings.

New York State needs to get its finances in order, but not to the detriment of people with developmental disabilities.

Tina Feldman