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Suit aims to halt state disability cuts

October 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to stop state budget cuts that would severely impact tens of thousands of children and adults with disabilities. Some people would lose their eligibility altogether. Others would lose some, if not all, of their in-home services. One young boy with muscular dystrophy says changes like that would cost him his mom.The Rodriguezes are bracing for November 1 budget cuts to in-home support services.

The state pays Sylvia Rodriguez to help her son Carlos with day-to-day living, but the 11-year-old, who has muscular dystrophy, stands to lose much of that financial and homecare assistance.

"She'll have to get another job and I'll have to stay in the house and I won't be able to do that much stuff," said Carlos.

But in a last-ditch effort to save the program, disabled-rights groups and homecare workers filed a federal lawsuit to stop the cuts to 130,000 Californians who will either see severe reductions in homecare or total elimination.

Getting help will depend on how functional they are on their own.

"People are not getting adequate notice," said plaintiff Deb Roth. "You're talking about people who maybe are children, or people with Alzheimer's, or suffering from dementia."

People who receive subsidized in-home care tried to prevent the cuts from being included, but the Schwarzenegger administration said cuts were needed to help close this summer's $24-billion deficit brought on by the recession.

"Whether it is this decision or others in Medi-Cal and the human services area, any number of very difficult decisions were necessary to close a budget gap of this magnitude," said H.D. Palmer, deputy director for external affairs at the California Department of Finance.

The state hopes to save about $80 million this year, then $140 million every year after that. So the changes appear to be permanent.

Carlos, who had lobbied hard at the Capitol, hopes judges will be sympathetic.

"It's important so people with disabilities can get help," said Carlos.

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