One of the most vulnerable of populations throughout the pandemic – and one of the less reported on demographic groups – has been the disabled, particularly those confined to residential facilities.
Peter L. Makris, a Fishkill resident, knows their vulnerability. In 1987, he and wife Anna had identical twin girls born severely premature with hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy and more. Elana, one of the twins, died at age 14, a week before 9/11.
“She would smile – a smile that would bring so much joy to all around her… even blow kisses,” her father remembers.
The other twin, Samantha, lives in a home for eight disabled individuals in Scarsdale run by The Arc Westchester, the largest agency in Westchester County serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, and their families. Samantha has the mind of a 12 year old, is wheelchair-bound and needs help with basic physical functions. Although he has not seen her since the pandemic began due to the home’s strict policies, Makris says, he talks with her daily.
What has him terrified, however, are New York state’s proposed funding cuts to IRA and ICF residential programs for the handicapped. The cuts, he says, revolve around those instances when residents are in the hospital and thus not actually being cared for in their homes. They still, however, remain residents of the homes, Makris adds, with home staff making follow-up visits.
“I have reached out to Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo, his lieutenant governor, his controller, two congressman, all 62 New York state senators as well as all 148 New York state assemblymen and women (over 210 legislators), expressing my significant concerns surrounding the proposed cuts in reimbursements for the IRA and ICF residential programs,” Makris writes us. “Remarkably, I received one true response from just one senator, and I am frightened for my daughter’s (as well as thousands of our most vulnerable citizens’) future.
What Makris is hoping for is for readers to help support The Arc Westchester as well as to voice their concerns over the proposed cuts to their New York state representatives.
“Please do not let this happen,” Makris says. “Children will die. Families will be destroyed. We need your help and support to stop these cuts.”
For more, e-mail Makris at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit arcwestchester.org.
– Georgette Gouveia