To The Daily Sun,
Recently, Lakes Region Community Services (LRCS) celebrated 40 years of service to our community. For me it was a week of reminiscing — thinking about how the organization began, remembering those who together affected change and created a community-based system that supports independence, dignity, and opportunity in the lives of people with disabilities. It made me think not only about how far we have come, but also of all that is left to do.
LRCS was formed in 1975 by a small group of citizens who felt better coordination was needed for human services. We have grown and evolved since 1975 from a state that institutionalized our citizens with developmental disabilities to one that embraces a community-based system. While LRCS started with two employees it now employs over 350, supports over 1,200 individuals and families each year and is an integral part of the community in central N.H.
Now that the pause to celebrate our past achievements is over, the realities of today's challenges loom even larger. As an organization and state, we are facing devastating cuts to Developmental Services as proposed by the N.H. House of Representatives. I am working to inform the community and prepare families and individuals we serve and our employees and contractors to understand what would occur if these cuts come to fruition.
Eighty percent of people served by developmental services live with their families. By partnering with area agencies, families can continue to work, provide for themselves and contribute to their community. The cuts approved by the House of Representatives would undermine and diminish this partnership with families, underestimating the impact of the state's reliance on families in this service model.
The people of New Hampshire have a community-based support system for people with disabilities that we can all be proud of. It is cost effective, falling below our neighboring states and those states that rely on an institutional model of care. This system, which is the safety net for some of our most vulnerable citizens, is being put at risk. The dismantling of existing services proposed for New Hampshire citizens who need support and supervision for their basic health and safety, would result in real harm. The needs of these individuals will not go away; they will not "fix themselves." Any changes to the existing service system must not be done in haste. Change must be careful and thoughtful to ensure that no harm will come to any individual or family served by the developmental services system.
I am proud to be a part of the developmental services system. I am proud to lead an organization with many caring, dedicated employees and providers that are true stewards to the community for the individuals and families we serve. I am deeply concerned and troubled about the impact of these cuts and the irreversible harm they will cause if implemented. It has been a long and arduous road to get us where we are today and if the system is dismantled in haste, the individuals, families and communities impacted may never recover.
- Category: Letters
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