SCRANTON, May 16, 2012 – – Members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today met area human service providers at Lackawanna College to discuss current public policy issues and the adverse effect a proposed 20 percent state funding reduction would have on the people they serve.

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) said the committee has been gathering input from providers and advocates throughout the state on the impact the Governor’s proposed budget will have upon their ability to continue to provide adequate services in their communities.

“This is a great opportunity for committee members and service providers alike to share ideas and continue the discussion about what their policy and funding needs are,” Boscola said. “It is imperative that the legislature continues to fight for programs and services that are proven successful, especially for the people who need our help the most.”

Last week, the Senate passed an updated version of the state’s 2012-13 spending plan that would increase state funding to human service providers by $84 million over Gov. Corbett’s initial budget proposal.

State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) spoke about how the continued budget cuts not only affect local social service organizations, but also the levels of service they can provide to individuals and their families who rely so heavily on quality services from providers in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“It was very important for my Senate colleagues to visit my district and hear entreaties from our local human service providers about the challenges they are facing on the front lines with limited resources and increased demand,” Blake said. “As we work towards a final state budget, we must be diligent in our negotiations so that those who need our help the most, including seniors, persons with intellectual disabilities and autism, and those struggling with their health or mental illness, are able to receive the care and support they deserve.”

Also participating in the discussion, state Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon/Monroe) said that the legislature “must be mindful of the human impact and the negative consequences of reducing funding to programs that are an essential lifeline to families and individuals across the Commonwealth.”

Participants told the Senators about their current struggles to keep pace with the increasing demand for their services and the significant risk of reducing state support any further.

“The proposed budget cuts, even at the 10 percent level, would put many programs and services that we and others provide in serious jeopardy and if these programs go—they’re gone,” William P. Conaboy, President, Allied Services Health Integration System said. “A lot of these programs will be in jeopardy and these are programs that we need more than ever.”

Gary Drapek, President, United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties echoed those concerns.

“There has been no other time where we need the state’s help more than we do now – — and it feels like the rug is being pulled out from under us,” Drapek said. “This is about more than lines and numbers on a spread sheet, there are real lives and real people being affected.”

Other participants in the roundtable discussion included representatives from the Women’s Resource Center, The ARC of Northeastern PA, United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties, Allied Services Health Integration System, United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern PA, Northeast PA Center for Independent Living, and the Lackawanna-Susquehanna Behavioral Health, Intellectual Disabilities, Early Intervention Program.

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