Parents urge lawmakers to restore disability funding

By By John Guidroz / American Press

DeQuincy resident Carol Welch said her son, Kevin, was 14 when he suffered severe brain injuries after a snow skiing accident

during a local church trip in Colorado.

Welch said her family continues to care

for Kevin, now 28, using programs and services that are designed to

help the disabled.

But Gov. Bobby Jindal removed $6 million that the Legislature

added to the state budget to pay for those programs, something

Welch and other families of disabled children are fighting to have

restored.

The “Override the Veto” effort includes a Facebook page, a website (www.otvla.com) and a petition drive. Organizers are wanting

lawmakers to come back to Baton Rouge and override Jindal’s vetoes.

“For over a year we tried to care for (Kevin) without help, but it’s not possible,” Welch said. “There are children who are

going to go without those services. I learned about services that could help us work, and they’re being cut drastically.”

One of the larger cuts was $4 million

to expand the New Opportunity Waiver, or NOW, program that provides

at-home services

for the disabled. Other cuts included Individual and Family

Support Funds, Children’s Special Health Services Funds, Families

Helping Families Funds and Louisiana Assistive Technology Access

Network Funding.

A legislative veto session was set for July 16 after Jindal issued the line-item vetoes. But the session can be scrapped with

a majority of either the House or Senate. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said last week that he opposes a veto

session.

The last veto override occurred during the regular session in 1993 when Gov. Edwin Edwards was in office. A veto session has

never occurred once the regular session has adjourned.

Jason Durham, one of the organizers, said they have more than 3,000 petitions circulating within a week. Durham’s 20-year-old

daughter suffers from a rare neurological disorder. He received a NOW waiver after waiting for 14 years.

“Let us as parents come to the table,” he said. “Our legislators let us do that, but the governor did not. Jindal hasn’t reached

out to hear our story.”

Kristi Heurtezant of Sulphur has a 7-year-old son who suffers from autism. She said she has been on the waiting list for a

NOW waiver for seven years.

“Look at the therapies he’s missing out on that could’ve helped him along the way,” she said.

Heurtezant said the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities has provided diapers for her son and that she learned

how to understand his behavior by attending conferences organized by Families Helping Families.

“The cuts affect a lot of people,” she said. “Autism is like learning a whole new language.”