Potential state budget cuts could affect disability services in Chattanooga
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
While in Chattanooga for a legislative roundtable, Governor Bill Haslam mentioned how the overall rising costs of healthcare has put a strain on the state's budget. As Haslam prepares to submit his budget proposal to the state legislature, he is asking all state departments to prepare for a seven percent cut across the board.
One of the state departments that would be impacted is the Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. It would have to make a cut close to $22 million. In Chattanooga the Orange Grove Center, a non-profit, is watching and waiting, hoping it can keep all of its services intact.
"It would be devastating. I mean, a seven percent reduction in our services? I don't know where to begin, quite frankly," says Kyle Hauth, Executive Director of the Orange Grove Center.
Orange Grove is the oldest non-profit organization in the state serving individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
"We provide a vast array of services to about 1,000 people," says Hauth.
A seven percent cut translates to a loss of $1.6 million for the center.
"The Family Support Program would be eliminated in its entirety."
Four hundred people would be left in the dark, missing out on everything from behavior therapy to dental care.
"Any number of supports," says Hauth. "If an individual just needs a wheelchair ramp built at their home our family support program will meet that need."
"It definitely gives them opportunity. It's an opportunity they wouldn't get if the budget is cut," says Jasmine Seals.
Seals oversees the center's Industrial Training Center. Local companies pay people like Teresa to help package various products.
"I thank all my supervisors and all them helping me out," she says.
With no increase in funding over the past 10 years, the center says it has done its best to operate efficiently.
"I definitely want to do what I can to make sure this center is up and running as well as different facilities around Chattanooga," says Seals.
"We certainly understand the need to balance budgets. We just simply ask that the state of Tennessee look very closely at our population, how efficient our services are being provided, and consider alternatives," says Hauth.
The center has placed a petition on its website urging Governor Haslam to protect disability care.
Haslam has reiterated a seven percent cut is not inevitable just the toughest scenario. He will address the legislature on the state budget Monday, February 9th. Lawmakers must pass a balanced budget before the fiscal year begins July 1st.