Democrats from the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee said Friday that Gov. Paul LePage needs to do more for Maine seniors and children in his proposed state budget.
Proposals on services for individuals with developmental disabilities and children’s mental health services had public hearings before the committees Friday.
“Time and time again, we’ve heard from the public how this governor’s budget fails our older neighbors. He has an opportunity to help 1,200 elderly Mainers stay in their homes and stay in their communities, but his budget passes them by. Why aren’t they a greater priority for the governor this year?” asked Rep. Peggy Rotundo, House chair of the budget-writing committee. “We’ve already seen how his proposed cuts would burden poor seniors who rely on programs like Drugs for the Elderly that help them pay for their health care and medications. Today, we saw how his budget would make seniors languish on wait lists when they need services.”
The wait lists in this area include those with approximately 1,200 elderly in need of home care and homemaker services. These wait lists could be cleared if the governor’s budget invested approximately $5 million toward them, but instead the budget puts no additional resources toward that end.
Maine’s most vulnerable children, especially those with autism and mental illness, would be hurt by the governor’s plan to slash behavioral and mental health services. The governor’s budget would impose deep cuts to professional agencies providing behavioral health supports and medication management.
“Maine children with autism and other disabilities need services desperately and benefit tremendously when these supports are provided consistently and at an early age,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “The governor needs to make children a priority and we need to provide the quality supports they need. The professional agencies providing these services already have long waiting lists and these cuts will put service delivery at even greater risk”
Amanda Davis of Ellsworth testified about the importance of early and consistent intervention for her 11-year-old son, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4. She said the proposed cuts would erode the availability and quality of services.
“As the old saying goes, ‘Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.’ We can envision the day when Tyler will be independent because he will have the life skills to do so,” Davis testified. “The alternative if he had not been receiving these services, or continue receiving them would be an adult life living in a residential facility, costing taxpayers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.”