Assemblyman: Office for People with Developmental Disabilities has been underfunded, ignored over last decade

News 12 is taking a close look at the status of local group homes and day programs on International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

News 12 Staff

Dec 3, 2021, 11:00 PM

Updated 962 days ago

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News 12 is taking a close look at the status of local group homes and day programs on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. 
Marian Heinzinger says her 32-year-old son, Kevin, has a full life.  She credits the day program her son with Down syndrome attends in South Salem.
"I've been told Kevin's services are in jeopardy," says Heinzinger, of Mahopac. 
That's because many day programs and group homes are suffering staffing shortages.
"My concern is that Kevin will be socially isolated in the house because he is not leaving for a day program and that is not healthy for anybody," says Heinzinger. 
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti chairs the Assembly's new "People with Disabilities" committee.
He says over the last decade, the state's Office for People With Developmental Disabilities has been underfunded and ignored.
"We are on the verge of a collapse of the OPWDD system," he says. 
The OPWDD says that since September, three state-operated homes in the Hudson Valley region, and three homes in the Taconic region have been temporarily suspended.
A spokesperson said in a statement, "OPWDD and our provider agencies, as well as most human services organizations across the country, are facing a workforce shortage of crisis proportions."
Seth Diamond, the CEO of Westchester Jewish Community Services which runs 13 group homes, says it boils down to wages.
"The salary that the state allows us to pay is incredibly low and it makes it very difficult to attract talent to work in group homes," says Diamond.
Last week Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a $1.5 billion workforce incentive package to help with staffing shortages.
OPWDD says when group homes are suspended, they move residents to a temporary location and try to give families as much notice as possible.  


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