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Public lodges its budget requests with senators
Question of the Day
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Rev. Patrick Mascarella, blind and assisted by a yellow Labrador retriever, described to state senators Friday how he learned braille and skills to continue living on his own as his sight worsened, through the help of a rehabilitative services agency.
The retired Catholic priest urged the lawmakers to steer money to Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, which helps disabled people live and work independently in their communities. The agency provides skills training and helps people locate technology to assist them.
“They have been for me a great source of stability in my life,” Mascarella told the Senate Finance Committee.
He was one of dozens of people - including parents of disabled children, wheelchair-bound state residents and representatives of the organizations that help them - who pushed their priorities to senators deciding how to craft Louisiana’s $25 billion budget for next year.
Most of the spending requests to the Finance Committee sought support for health care services.
Parents whose developmentally disabled children are waiting for home-based assistance and some who receive state services asked lawmakers to keep in place plans to add $26 million to health care programs that serve those with disabilities.
The money will provide assistance to nearly 2,500 people on waiting lists.
Lori Dahl, of Mandeville, said her 8-year-old son Jack has been on the waiting list for services from a Medicaid program called the New Opportunity Waiver, or NOW, since 2008. Dahl’s son has autism and epilepsy and requires around-the-clock monitoring.
“My home is in constant lockdown as Jack is fascinated with water and my house could be flooded at a moment’s notice,” she said.
The House version of the budget would increase NOW funding, moving more people off waiting lists for services. Dahl asked for Senate backing of those plans, to help families like hers get more help taking care of their children.
“I worry that as Jack gets older and stronger, I won’t be able to keep this hectic pace up and continue to meet his needs,” she said.
The Senate committee on Sunday will draw up its version of the 2014-15 budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Senators who listened to several hours of personal and emotional testimony were sympathetic.
“We feel for your individual circumstances and we shall do our best,” said Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma.
Eric Searcy, in a wheelchair, described the accident caused by a drunken driver that partially paralyzed him 15 years ago when he was a baseball player at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Searcy asked for support of the Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network, which works with disabled people to find technology that can help them work, study or handle daily life. LATAN helped him get a loan for a modified vehicle.
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