Submitted by State Senator Michael Barrett
After an increase of almost $1 million, children with autism will get added services in the state budget for the new fiscal year just underway, one of several forward steps cited by State Sen. Mike Barrett, Senate Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. “This isn’t enough to put services where they need to be,” Barrett said, “but it’s a start.”
Autism funding is one of several gains secured by Barrett and his human services allies last month in the Legislature. On another front, the Dept. of Disability Services’ Turning 22 program, which helps young people with Down syndrome and other cognitive challenges transition to self-directing adulthood, won a nearly 10% increase. “Since the onset of the recession five years ago, human services programs have taken it on the chin,” Barrett said. “This new budget makes modest progress in regaining some of the ground lost.”
In a related development, Barrett said he was especially heartened by a significant increase of $58 million in the salary account for community-based residential services for all adults — young adults included — who have cognitive challenges. Much of this will go to boost compensation for the poorly paid staffers who work directly with these adults.
Finally, a Barrett amendment will enable the Office on Disability to hire an IT Specialist to oversee compliance by other state agencies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Barrett, a health care IT specialist by profession, is particularly interested in helping people with physical and intellectual disabilities to access the Internet and use new technology.