FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carol Horowitz,Managing Staff Attorney, DRN (412) 258-2131
Governor Tom Corbett and the Department of Public Welfare Face Lawsuit Over Cuts to Services for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities
Harrisburg, PA (March 14, 2012) – Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania and attorney Stephen F. Gold filed a lawsuit today in Commonwealth Court against Governor Tom Corbett, the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), and the Office of the Budget over proposed budget cuts to services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities. In an effort to preserve critical services for individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities, the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, The Arc of Pennsylvania, PA Mental Health Consumers Association, Vision for EQuality, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwestern PA, Speaking for Ourselves, and the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania are taking legal action to stop the chronic underfunding of services and prevent the devastating impact from the 20 percent funding cut and transfer of funds to the Human Services Development Fund (HSDF) Block Grant in the Governor’s proposed budget. It would also require the Governor and DPW to provide adequate mental health and intellectual disability services to all Pennsylvanians who need them.
“For years, DPW has consistently asked for and received woefully inadequate appropriations to support services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities that are mandated under the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act of 1966,” says Mark Murphy, CEO of Disability Rights Network of PA. “Cutting 20 percent for critical services that are already appallingly underfunded is beyond irresponsible.”
The organizations are asking the court to “declare that Corbett’s and DPW’s proposal to transfer Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities (MH/ID) funds to the HSDF Block Grant or… combine MH/ID appropriations with appropriations for other services violates the MH/ID Act.”
“While we support the Administration’s desire to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in welfare programs, it is important to separate critical services needed by persons with disabilities from welfare fraud,” says Maureen Cronin, Executive Director, The Arc of Pennsylvania. “There are almost 16,000 Pennsylvanians with intellectual and developmental disabilities on waiting lists for services, more than 3,000 of whom are in need of emergency services. We know of no families that are ‘gaming’ the system – they are simply desperate for help.”
“This ill-advised attempt to balance Pennsylvania’s budget on the backs of people with mental illness and disabilities is a recipe for social and economic disaster,” says Debbie F. Plotnick, Director of Advocacy, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “Ultimately this action will result in increased use of the most costly services such as emergency rooms and crisis centers. Undoubtedly, we will see increased numbers of people experiencing homelessness, incarceration, and institutionalization, greatly increasing costs to taxpayers and wiping out any short term savings.”
The organizations are seeking relief from the Court in the form of mandamus and an injunction to require Governor Corbett and DPW to comply with their obligations under the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act of 1966.
Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania is a statewide, non–profit corporation designated as the federally–mandated organization to advance and protect the civil rights of adults and children with disabilities. Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania works with people with disabilities and their families to ensure their rights to live in their communities with the services they need, to receive a full and inclusive education, to live free of discrimination, abuse and neglect, and to have control and self–determination over their services. For more information or a copy of the petition, visit www.drnpa.org or call 1-800-692-7443 (Voice) /1-877-375-7139 (TDD).