10K Texans with disabilities would be impacted by caregiver budget cuts
As state lawmakers hash out what will be a tight budget, Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities stand to lose a lot when it comes to who takes care of them.
Advocates say proposed salary cuts for state-funded caregivers would impact about 10,000 families across the state and will likely cause high turnover, a lower quality of care, and some families could even be torn apart.
34-year old AJ Dillon was born with a chromosomal imbalance, and through a state-funded personal attendant, she receives help with things like basic chores, grocery shopping and transportation -- things a working parent can't always do.
"Very, very difficult without help. You have to have help," says AJ's mom Debbie.
While the House's budget version would not impact pay for caregivers, like AJ's, the Texas Senate's proposed budget would cut their salaries by 21 percent.
"It would be horrific," says Debbie. "It'd be horrific for the families and their clients."
Debbie says AJ's current caregiver is key to AJ's independence. She says it took her daughter a long time to get comfortable with someone, but if salaries get cut, Debbie isn't sure her caregiver will be able to keep AJ as a client.
"A constant worry is, who is she going to be able to go with, or who can she drive with that I trust, or am I going to be driving her everywhere?" says Debbie.
Debbie also worries about the quality of care that would come with lower pay, and just as important, how losing her current caregiver would impact AJ emotionally.
"AJ, first of all, would be very depressed," Debbie said.
Kyle Piccola with The Arc Texas is an advocate for people like AJ. He says some families will be forced to pay out of pocket for more care, or even send their loved ones to long-term facilities.
"These cuts are targeting the most cost-effective, least expensive service for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, because they're living in their own home," says Piccola.
For some, no matter the cost, sending a loved one away is not an option.
"We need to have as much help as we can to keep them close. They grow up to be functioning people, the more help and care they get," says Debbie.