Disabled Community Worried About Impact of New State Budget

March 21, 2013 Updated Mar 21, 2013 at 11:06 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

March 21, 2013 Updated Mar 21, 2013 at 11:06 AM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance program helps severely ill and physically disabled individuals across the state and is is also paid for by medicaid.

But as state lawmakers look to control medicaid costs, it is feared this program could see a drastic policy change.

"I think they're very worried," said Steve Truesdale of Buffalo, a community advocate with cerebral palsy.

Truesdale is one of tens of thousands of people statewide who need this program in order to live independently.

"So I have a home-care aid who comes in and does things like tie my shoes and help me on with my clothes," said Truesdale.

Also known as CDPA, the personal assistance program allows individuals to personally select who will help them.

"I hire the person who is coming to my home and that person answers to me as his supervisor, not some faceless agency," he said.

Under the current rules, disputes over changes to the assistance program are ruled on by a Medicaid hearing officer. And while the appeal is underway, Medicaid has to continue paying for the service.

Advocates worry the new budget will change that policy, so Medicaid can stop paying for disputed services during an appeal process.

"Without home healthcare, the next step for me is hospitalization or institutionalization," said Truesdale.

And the cost will be much higher for taxpayers than CDPA, which averages about $25,000 per year per individual.

"It costs $98,000 per year in a nursing home," said Todd Vaarwerk of WNY Independent Living, Inc. "So you subtract those numbers and you are easily saving $75,000 per year per person."

The disabled community is now raising the red flag and pleading with lawmakers to make sure the CDPA program doesn't become a casualty of the budget process.

"People who don't realize the important of these will be making the decisions," said Truesdale.

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