State cuts impact families who care for relatives with disabilities


Posted on July 12, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 12 at 10:16 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Lawmakers will not be returning to Baton Rouge to reconsider Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget cuts and bill rejections. That leaves families who take care of a loved one with disabilities, wondering where to turn for help.
"Hi, yes, hi baby. You Smiling?" says social worker Christen Milham Rodrigue as she plays with her only child.

 Eight-month-old Rex Rodrigue has Down syndrome. For six months, he has been getting therapy and one-on-one instruction through a state funded program. But now with funding changes in the past legislative session that will be stopped.

"These therapy services are a huge, huge help to us and when we start paying for them, which should happen in the next couple of months, we might be in a situation where we can't afford for him to get the therapy that he desperately needs," said Milham Rodrigue.
Rex's day care workers say they've noticed he's come a long way with the therapy. Now his parents worry about his future without it.

"That he won't be able to reach his full potential. We want him to be normalized as much as possible, stay on track as much as possible.  And it probably won't happen if he's not getting the services that he's getting now. And that could be a detriment to his future," said a concerned said Milham Rodrigue.

She says it will be difficult for her and her husband to afford the extra $240 a month for the therapy since they have so many other medical and surgical bills from Rex's condition.

"Research has proven that early intervention is an extremely important part of children's development, especially a child with special needs," explained Rex's Early Steps special instructor, Lili Guilbault.

The Department of Health and Hospitals tells Eyewitness News that cuts in federal and state monies forced reform of the programs. 

Next week they plan to begin working with families and advocates on a solution to transform the years-long waiting lists that some families endure for help. They will consider need over first-come, first-served.
Jindal defended the legislature's decision not to have a session to override programs he vetoed.

"I think it was a good session, a good  balanced budget. It didn't raise taxes. We agree with the legislature not to come back in special session," said Jindal.

DHH says that some families may be eligible for other types of help through their local Human Services District.

In New Orleans, families can call the Metropolitan Human Services District at 504-599-0245.
Mothers have called to say that Families Helping Families has been a great resource for them.
 A statement from DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert:
Since 2008, we've added 2,175 NOW slots since 2008, as well as adding 475 Children’s Choice slots, and 210 Residential Option Waiver slots, for a total of 2,860. We absolutely do want to fund additional NOW waiver slots for families in Louisiana who need comprehensive services. Given the Department’s current budget, including the more than $20 million the legislature cut from it this year just in Medicaid, we are not able to add more waiver slots right now. To add more NOW waiver slots within the budget the legislature gave us would mean that we would have to take other services away from people already receiving them.
Next week we are starting regular meetings with the stakeholder and advocates in an effort to find a solution to the waiting list, including considering transforming the way the list is managed. Instead of a first-come, first-served basis, we want to make sure we are appropriating services based on need. We want to get services to families who need them as soon as possible; the way the list is now structured prevents us from doing that. We are hopeful that we can work together with the parents, advocates and stakeholders on finding a solution.”

Also, families in need of additional resources for their family members may contact their local Human Services District.