Families of the disabled ask for help

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — For families who have a loved one with disabilities, it's becoming more of a challenge to find a safe setting for their children.

There is a critical need for services for people with developmental disabilities, specifically residential facilities, or group homes. Families are getting desperate and Friday, they asked western New York lawmakers for help.

Max Donatelli brought families, their advocates, and lawmakers together to talk about this critical need over breakfast, sponsored by the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, or DDAWNY.

NOTE | News 4's Al Vaughters served as moderator of Friday's meeting

"At some point, families cannot be caregivers forever," Donatelli said.

Group homes have provided safe harbor for adults with developmental, but they are all filled - with waiting lists.

Don O'Brian's son Michael has been on a waiting list for 20 years. If Michael does get placed in a residential setting, O'Brian is worried about his needs being met.

"But Mike needs intellectual and social stimulation. He is very bright, and very involved in everything around him," O'Brian said.

State figures show the wait list for western New York has nearly doubled in the last year. And 12,000 individuals with disabilities across the state need services that are not receiving them. But there may be a geographical imbalance.

Sen. Mark Grisanti said, "Downstate, in New York City, they have numerous beds that are available, yet they still get funding for places that are empty. But we need it in Upstate New York."

"They have to be able to have some hope that at some point, as they are aging, they are going to be able to have their loved one move out, and into a safe and secure and supportive environment," Donatelli said.

The need for services may be growing, but the DDAWNY says the state has been cutting funding and programs. Lawmakers who participated pledged to keep up the fight for disabled citizens next year.

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