County programs for disabled face ax

Jim Engvall has a full life. He has a nice apartment in Belmont and a good job that he enjoys, he spends his free time volunteering for a cause important to him and he’s surrounded by people who care about him.

But the 56-year-old with cerebral palsy fears that much of that could be on the line — not only for him, but for the 3,500 residents of San Mateo County who receive services funded by the California Department of Developmental Services.

On Monday night, Engvall and others with disabilities met to write letters to their lawmakers in an attempt to save their programs from cuts during the current state budget crunch.

Like most state agencies, the Department of Developmental Services is likely facing hefty cuts this year — exactly how much may become clear this week when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issues his revised budget.

But unlike many state programs, those that serve people with disabilities have already endured six years of a funding freeze, Jim Shorter said.

Shorter is the director of the Golden Gate Regional Center, the nonprofit that funnels state funding to programs that serve the developmentally disabled in San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties, such as in-home care and employment services for the disabled.

Among the worst to be hit by cuts is the state’s In-Home Support Services program, which provides in-home, nonmedical domestic care, such as preparing meals and running errands for people with disabilities and seniors.

That program could face $3.4 million cuts in San Mateo County alone, according to the nonprofit California Budget Project, reducing the number of hours clients are provided care by 17.8 percent.

Such cuts are “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said Diana Conti, who runs Parca, a service provider to people with disabilities.

“If these people don’t have in-home care, they’re going to be institutionalized, and instead of the $10 an hour pittance you’re paying an in-home worker, the state will pay $200,000 a year for institutionalization,” she said.

Shorter says that something must be done to save the programs.

“What does it say when it is they that get cut?” he asked. “Why is it that prices to purchase their services get frozen for years?”

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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