Covering Louisiana

Jun 13, 2011 9:08 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP

Public testimony about budget cuts

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Pat Cranford of West Monroe pleaded with legislators to help her disabled 32-year-old son stay happy and independent, by providing care she cannot afford.
She said her son, Josh, was born three months early, leaving him developmentally disabled. A disability check pays for his food and rent, but he relies on the state to provide the 24-hour care he requires.
"I really don't have a plan B. I wish I were younger . I wish I were independently wealthy. I wish a lot of things," Cranford told the Senate Finance Committee.
The Senate Finance Committee set aside Saturday to hear from the public on how the state operating budget likely will affect the disabled, the poor and others. It's an annual ritual, but one that appeared to take on additional significance as legislators confront the tightest budget in recent memory. The state is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The state House has cut $200 million from a budget that that was already lean when it came to the Legislature. Representatives rejected Gov. Bobby Jindal's plans to raise money by selling prisons and voted to restrict the amount of one-time money that can be spent on recurring needs.
Administration officials have said the cuts would force prisons to close and lead to the first layoffs in the 75-year history of the Louisiana State Police. But much of the testimony focused on cuts to health-care services, where the House cut $29 million in state-run programs and another $81 million from private Medicaid providers.
"Keep me in my home," Tommie Barmore told the committee, struggling to say the words.
Like Josh Cranford, Barmore is developmentally disabled. She lives in a West Monroe apartment with roommates. The state provides some of the money for her care.
Haley Elise Ridgel, Miss St. Tammany Heritage of 2011, asked legislators to restore mental health services. Severe depression during her early college years left her institutionalized and contemplating suicide before she found help and the proper medicines, she said.
"We can't lose any more lives to this disease," Ridgel said.

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