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Tears, Fear in Response to Disabled Cuts

Lindsay is a girl with cerebral palsy from Yuba City. Everything in her life has been a struggle, she said — from learning how to read to learning how to behave. But she did it. Made it through school, and now she has a job. But at  yesterday’s budget subcommittee hearing, she testified that all of her successes will disappear if the planned budget cuts go through to disabled programs in California.

“If you pass these budget cuts, I will be institutionalized,” she said in her strong, halting voice. “I have only been able to succeed because my mom always fought for me. And if she were still alive, she would have been here in these hallways at 7 a.m., to fight for me.”

As it was, there were hundreds of people crammed into the hallway outside the hearing room, and the line to testify before the Senate subcommittee was impossibly long.

In fact, the subcommittee hurried through its own business to give a full three hours for testimony — and still ended up going two more hours past the hearing’s time limit.

“I knew this would be painful and difficult,” Senate member Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said, after sitting through the five hours of sometimes wrenching testimony. “At first, I didn’t want to [chair this subcommittee] because I knew it would be painful. But I can tell you, your voice will be heard,” he said.

All three of the legislators at yesterday’s hearing  — DeSaulnier, Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) and Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) — have been strong advocates for health care programs like this one, DeSaulnier said.

“We’ve all been very moved by the hearing today,” he said. “And we’ll do all that we can do, under the circumstances.”

It’s unclear how much will be changed from the budget proposal that axes $6 billion in health-related services, including the $1.7 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal and cutbacks in regional centers for people with developmental disabilities that were being protested yesterday.

Those regional centers were set up by passage of the Lanterman Act back in 1969, which first established the state program for the developmentally disabled, said advocate Shirley Dove.

“The proudest day in California history was when the Lanterman Act was passed,” Dove said. “And the worst day in California would be watching it go.”



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