The inconsistencies expressed during discussion of the budget in the House this session have created more confusion than ever, and consequently fear, among people with disabilities, their families and many advocates.

Representatives say cuts they approved to the Department of Health and Hospitals budget in HB1 totaling $304.5 million do not have to impact direct services to those who must rely upon the state for health care and long-term care.

Administration officials say the budget reductions they will have to make as a result of the cuts will result in cuts and even elimination of service programs for individuals with disabilities and others who rely upon DHH for their health care and long-term care.

The $304.5 million reduction is in addition to cuts in DHH’s budget that were included in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive budget, those that also were made during the current budget year and those that have been made over the past two years. Therefore, it seems illogical and to be wishful thinking that direct services to Louisiana’s most vulnerable citizens will not be impacted by the most recent cuts approved by the House.

Representatives have accused DHH officials of “choosing” to cut programs that will result in the loudest outcries from advocates. DHH officials have issued detailed explanation of what cuts would be required to reach the $304.5 million reduction.

Representatives have not adequately explained how DHH would reach the amount required without reducing or eliminating direct services, so individuals, family members like myself and advocates remain very concerned and fearful.

In time, the reality of decisions made this session will be obvious. If that reality is reduced access to quality health care and long-term care that Louisiana’s most vulnerable citizens rely upon, elected officials will have a lot of explaining to do to the thousands who will be affected by their decisions.

People with disabilities, their families and advocates can only hope that Louisiana senators will hear their cries as they consider HB1 and restore the funds cut by the Louisiana House.

Kay Marcel

family advocate

New Iberia