Corbett proposes 'intellectual disabilities' funding increase

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PHILADELPHIA -- In a glimpse of his upcoming budget address, Gov. Tom Corbett told a group of advocates and family members today that he will propose increased funding for programs for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Mr. Corbett said his February budget proposal will provide home- and community-based services to about 1,200 adults awaiting access to state programs. The governor and his secretary of public welfare, Gary Alexander, described the addition of nearly $20 million as part of an ongoing effort to direct state resources to those who most need them.

"To me those people should be at the front of the line when we're talking about state and federal government helping people who can't take care of themselves," Mr. Corbett said. "These people go first."

The governor's proposal would come on top of a $17.8 million addition this year that the administration said is providing services for about 1,100 people.

Mr. Corbett, a Republican, declined to say whether his budget would increase, reduce or maintain funding for social services as a whole. His proposal early next month will kick off a budget process that in the past two years has concluded on June 30, the final day of the fiscal year.

If the Legislature includes this additional money in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, plans currently under consideration by the administration would provide services to 700 recent graduates and 500 adults on an emergency waiting list.

Advocates said such services can allow people with intellectual disabilities -- a category that includes Down syndrome and autism -- to live safely and engage in their communities through work or volunteerism, while providing caretakers with occasional respite. John and Mary Ruth Murdoch, of Northampton County, said they had been told since their 21-year-old daughter, Annie, was small that there would be no assistance once she left school, as she will this spring. The governor's announcement inspired them with sudden hope that their daughter might receive the assistance she would need to hold a job.

The Murdochs said the position, at an organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding, would give their daughter a place and a purpose.

"We've spent 20 years believing that there was simply no hope," Mr. Murdoch said. "This is absolutely stunning. This was simply not in the realm of possibility."

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Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141.


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