Last week, Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held their first ever public hearing to discuss funding for public education. This week they're meeting again, for the second time in history, to discuss cutting funding to Medicaid programs for the disabled and mentally ill. One of our state lawmakers suggested that we need to return to the days of the 1950s and 1960s when volunteers cared for the less fortunate. (ps, back in the 40s and 50s, we sent most of our disabled to "hospitals.")
What follows below I cannot claim as my own. This is a letter that will be read at the JFAC hearing tomorrow (if time allows) during the public testimony. It was written by my passionate and wonderfully eloquent bride. If you want to know how the slash and hack efforts of the State of Idaho will affect the disabled and under-privileged, read on.
Dear Legislators and Governor Otter,
I am writing today to share about my family. I want you to know who they are because the decisions you make affect their everyday life and their future. I have been an Idaho resident most of my life. I was born in Moscow and have lived here the majority of my 27 years. I have always been proud of where I came from. I have chosen to raise my family here, go to school here, and get involved in our community in North Idaho. My husband and I have been foster parents in Kootenai County for almost 4 years. We have had 10 children in our home and have adopted two of them. I have worked with Foster and Adoptive parents as a support person for over two years. We have three children and each one has different special needs. I am going to introduce them to you. You hold their futures in your hands.
Christian is six years old. He was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s. He is in kindergarten and he loves school. He is extremely smart and excels in math. His special interests are dinosaurs, animals, and art. He wants to be a Scientist that helps animals when he grows up. Christian can achieve his dreams without a doubt, but not if he does not learn how to cope with the challenges that Asperger’s brings. He currently receives IBI therapy and counseling services. He is making great progress. I am learning so much about how to parent him and help him become a contributing member of our society. Without these interventions I would not have the skills, knowledge, or supports that I need to help him grow into the person he is capable of being. He uses almost all of his 22 hours allotted by Medicaid for IBI. This therapy is essential to him excelling and growing as a person to reach his goals. If this program was cut or drastically reduced I fear that Christian will not be able to achieve his dreams. All the research on the Autism Spectrum points to intervention early, consistently, and at high volumes being pivotal to the successes of children on the spectrum. Without it they will not reach their potential and overcome their obstacles. You can make the difference in his life by keeping the funding in place for IBI and Mental Health supports for children like him.
Chloe was sheltered from her family at birth because she was positive for meth. She came to us at six weeks old and overcame many challenges with the help of the Infant Toddler Program. Now she is a vivacious, beautiful, and articulate 3 ½ year old little girl. She wants to be a Doctor when she grows up so she can make her brother all better. She does have special needs though. Chloe suffers from sensory integration issues, and also some attachment and severe ADHD issues. She has 5 hours a week of PSR and counseling. She has made amazing gains with these interventions. They have been critical for her. Without continued counseling and other mental health supports Chloe is at risk genetically, of becoming an addict and suffering from much bigger issues. It is essential that she be able to access the necessary mental health services like counseling and PSR as needed for years to come in order for her to become a successful adult. Chloe’s birth family and parents couldn’t be there for her, and have caused her great pain in her life. Thankfully the State of Idaho DHW and our family stood in the gap for her, and helped her to be successful so far. Will the state turn its back on her now? She has made it over so many hurdles and just needs the supports in place to stay happy and healthy and achieve her dreams. Will you choose to cut the funding of the Counseling and PSR services essential to her being successful in life?
Josiah is 2 ½. He is also on the autism spectrum and will most likely struggle with ADHD like his sister. We aren’t sure of who he will be and what he will be capable of because right now Josiah functions at the level of a 1 year old. He had been in intervention since birth and continues to need multiple supports including attachment therapy and other therapies. He will be getting IBI when he is three and will need as many hours as he can get because he has so far to go. Like Chloe, Josiah’s mother was on drugs during pregnancy and he was taken away at birth. He has overcome major medical issues and some of his global developmental issues but still has a long journey ahead. Without the supports of IBI and/or Developmental Therapy, Josiah could end up in an institution. He would not be able to achieve the potential we see in him. We have saved him from the heartache and the pain of growing up in an abusive and neglectful home. But we cannot choose to end the support there. You must stand up for him and other children like him. They need these imperative supports to achieve their potential, and become contributing members of society. Please stand up for them.
My husband and I have seen Developmental Disabilities Agencies and Mental Health Agencies give hope, make change, and be an essential support to children with special needs and their families. In place of cutting, or drastically reducing the budgets for the programs, please consider raising taxes on specific items instead. Please picture these children and the thousands like them in our state that need all of us. They could be doctors, or scientists, they could help bring change to the world someday. Even children severely affected by different diagnosis’ impact those around them positively, and can contribute to society in some way. You never know what they are capable of. However, they cannot reach their potential if they don’t receive the supports and the services they need, in quantities that will impact their lives long term. Be an advocate for these children. Please keep funding going for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for children. Don’t turn your backs on them in the name of balancing a budget. We can do better as a state to support these special children. It is our responsibility to do our best, to make wise choices, to keep them safe. We are responsible to make sure they will have every opportunity to be successful, independent, adults, who benefit society. We all need to do our part, please partner with us in our efforts. Thank you for your time today.
Sincerely, Rebekah Casey