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Veto of disability funding will affect parish residents

By Kyle Barnett -   Jul 18, 2013

For Destrehan resident Karen Scallan, Gov. Bobby Jindalís decision to line-item veto about $5 million in funding for assistance programs for the disabled and senior citizens may have impacts on her family.

Scallan is the mother to a developmentally disabled child who requires daily care. Her family was on a waiting list for eight years before her son received a Children’s Choice waiver that allowed for her family to receive funding for their child’s care.

"The waiting period was very difficult. Children like ours cannot necessarily get what they need in community childcare centers," Scallan said.

Since receiving the waiver, Scallan and her husband have been able to maintain full-time employment while receiving care for their son. However, at age 19 her son will no longer be eligible for Children’s Choice waiver and they will have to apply for a New Opportunities Waiver (NOW) slot, which currently has a waiting period of at least a decade.

Scallan said if their assistance runs out her family may have to make some tough decisions.

"At least one parent can’t work. Then you rely more on the government," she said. "Having the waiver you have more of an opportunity to work to put back into the system."

There was speculation that state legislators may force a special session to have that funding restored, but that effort fell short.

In the Senate, two-thirds of the 39 members voted to block the veto session. In the House the veto session had much more support with only 38 out of 105 representatives voting to block it.

Both of St. Charles Parish’s legislators, Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco) and Rep. Greg Miller (R-Norco), were in favor of holding the session.

Smith said he disagreed with the decision by Jindal to take funds away from services for the disabled and elderly that were debated and voted on by the legislature.

"I didn’t think it was right for the governor to go in and change that in a negative way when it related to healthcare for some of our most needy and most deserving citizens," he said.

Smith said he has worked towards increasing funding for NOW waivers since he was elected to the legislature in 2003.

"It’s unbelievable, the waitlist is 12-15 years. Some of these individuals, it destroys families financially while they are waiting and lots of times emotionally as well," he said. "We did everything we could within this budget to try and help as much as we can."

For families who are the most in need, Smith said the wait will have to continue for now.

"It’s just such an incredible financial responsibility to take care of somebody with the nature of some of these disabilities that are out there," he said. "I’ve heard and seen firsthand. They’ve come and sat in my office and I’ve gone and visited with them. Families are financially ruined because they can’t afford to not work because they need to pay for the services."

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