By JERRY WOLFFE
Becky Richey and her husband Jon have seen summer camp and respite eliminated for their teenage son and daughter who each have autism.
It hurts, Becky Richey said. She added, however, she understands the recent cutbacks in general funds by the Michigan Legislature leaves the nonprofits that serve those with disabilities or mental illness with no choice but to try and make the least painful cuts.
“You can’t cut ... funding for those with disabilities and expect them to do as well,” said Richey, 48, of Clarkston in reference to her son, Jacob, 16, and daughter, Hannah, 17.
“We as a country aren’t thinking about those in society who are most vulnerable.”
The Richey family lost respite and Scamp -- a $500 a week camp her teens could go to five days a week for five weeks during the summer. Jacob had gone to Scamp for 11 years but it is not likely next summer unless lawmakers pass a special appropriation to provide more money for the care of the 3,700 to 4,400 people with disabilities and mental illness that the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and other nonprofits serve.
During camp which is held between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., some 200 to 300 children with disabilities divide up into groups, get a “buddy,” and go boating, fishing, swimming, to the movie or on nature walks, Bechy said.
The family used to get 12 hours per week in respite, or six hours each child.
Those who are eligible for Medicaid are still getting respite, said Bechy, but her family doesn’t qualify for the federal program.
“We would look at how we would use respite to see what services our children needed to have the best possible life. Funding cuts will affect my children’s long-term development and socialization.”
She said respite was halted Sept. 1, or a month before the 2014-15 fiscal year began.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263 8950.