This article is from the Daily Star, May 1, 2009, I am so saddened and disappointed in the judges who made this ruling. Can you imagine how many people with disabilities will lose everything they had to help them be better able to live as independently as possible?
Appeals Court rules DES can trim funding for disabled
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona Published: 05.01.2009
PHOENIX — Arizona is free to cut services to an estimated 30,000 residents with developmental disabilities, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
In a unanimous decision, the judges found that nothing in state law bars the Department of Economic Security from reducing services, overturning a trial-court ruling blocking cuts made in response to a legislative order to trim spending.
The three-judge panel rejected arguments that those who have been getting help from the state are legally entitled to the services that have been specifically recommended for them.
The judges also concluded there was nothing illegal about the state reducing what it pays to organizations that provide services to those with disabilities — funding cuts challengers said would affect those services.
Thursday's ruling comes less than two months after Judge Joseph Heilman of Maricopa County Superior Court blocked the DES from cutting services. Heilman said he had reached the "inescapable conclusion" that the haste with which DES acted in cutting its spending "has served to create nothing less than mass confusion, anxiety and uncertainty" among those who receive benefits from organizations paid to provide services.
Heilman also said the DES acted to reduce services even though lawmakers did not relieve the agency of its legal responsibilities to provide care for those with mental-health problems.
Jennifer Nye, an attorney for the Arizona Center for Disability Law, said she was disappointed in the ruling.
"We know that thousands of adults and children with disability are going to be harmed by these cuts in services and rates," she said. Nye also called it "very shortsighted on the part of the state to balance its budget on the backs of its most vulnerable population."
Lawmakers made $580 million in spending cuts in late January as part of a plan to deal with a $1.6 billion budget deficit.
The DES share of that was close to $100 million. But the agency said its total cuts really amounted to more than $150 million, with cash taken from special accounts and the refusal of lawmakers to provide additional needed funds.
The DES, in turn, cut payments to service providers by 10 percent. It also eliminated services for people who are moderately developmentally disabled who, with support, can work in the private sector. And it dropped funding for early-intervention services for 2,000 children, from birth through age 3, who are at risk for developmental disability.
The appellate judges said lawmakers did nothing wrong in making a lump-sum cut to the DES budget and letting the agency decide what services to trim. They said legislators were faced with "a sobering assessment of plummeting revenues."
2 days ago