Arc bracing for cutback in state funding

DOWNEY - Hundreds of intellectually-impaired adults are facing shrinking or loss of services this year as the State of California threatens a 10 percent cutback in funds to Arc of Southern Los Angeles County.With its main office in Downey, Arc of Southeast Los Angeles County serves 20 surrounding cities. Arc was established locally in 1956 after the Kennedy administration sought to eliminate state-funded institutions for the disabled and utilize community-based services and programs instead. What started out as a handful of parents sitting around a table sharing concerns about how they were going to care for their intellectually-impaired adult children has grown into programs that foster natural life benefits and responsibilities. Promoting self-reliance and success, today's Arc offers vocational services, job development and coaching, adult development and day training activity centers, after school programs, senior services, supported living, independent living training, food services training, transportation services, basic adult education classes, and an advocacy center. "We have received only one increase in state funding in 12 years," said Arc Executive Director Kevin MacDonald. "It was a 3 percent increase two years ago." "Our funding has been frozen for a long time. Every year we go through a crisis of how we're going to make ends meet because we service 14 different programs and more than 400 people with intellectual disabilities." Cutbacks or loss of services could be devastating to Arc consumers and their families - especially the senior population. "Many of the seniors don't have parents anymore or siblings that can take care of them," said Downey resident Dwight Simpson. "So they end up in institutional facilities or on the street." His brother Larry Simpson, 58, has resided with him since the death of their parents. Larry has been an Arc consumer his entire adult life. Awarded "Senior of the Year" in 2008, he retired in 2007 after 14 years working in the Columbia High School cafeteria through the Arc program. His age and health have lowered his abilities to work, so now he participates in the Arc program designed for intellectually disabled senior citizens. "The senior program gives Larry a purpose and some sense of normalcy," Dwight said. "It would be difficult on him if he didn't go because he looks forward to it every day." MacDonald agrees as he worries what Arc services might have to be trimmed to accommodate the cutback and the impact it would have on the consumers. "It is life changing when they get a job," MacDonald said. "They want it so much that they show up for work everyday and try harder. Their dedication is what makes them exceptional employees." "This isn't about the actual numbers. This will put people out on the streets or close services that are vital to someone's life." ********** Published: January 16, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 39