Disabled Californians urge no more cuts to in-home services

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Lillibeth Navarro, executive director and founder of Communities Actively Living Independent & Free, takes part in a rally against proposed budget cuts in front of Gov. Jerry Brown's office on Jan. 10, 2011 in Los Angeles. The rally included several union and community activist groups representing the disabled.

To help get the state’s budget out of the red, Gov. Jerry Brown plans to cut the hours of in-home supportive care for some disabled Californians. That’ll save about $490 million. Brown projects the state’s shortfall at about $26.5 billion over the next 18 months.

Los Angeles resident Patricia McKnight, born with a degenerative disc disease, has difficulty getting around and depends on a caretaker to help with housework and groceries. She says she’d like Brown to raise taxes on powerhouse companies doing business in the Golden State.

“ … and even start taking a good hard look at our legislators’ six-figure salaries,” says McKnight. “A lot of them are receiving six-figure retirements from their previous positions and that’s just glutinous greed.”

Without an in-home caretaker, McKnight says she’ll likely end up in a nursing home and that’ll quadruple her monthly Med-Cal expenses.

“That’s the service that allows me to live in my own home instead of a nursing home,” says Sandy Varga. She's a lung-cancer survivor, but ended up paralyzed on the left side of her body when some follow up care at a hospital went wrong. Varga says three caretakers come to her home everyday.

“I can’t get dressed by myself," she says. "I can’t get out of my bed by myself. But, because they care for me, they not only dress me and get me into my chair. I function! I function in my world and in society.”

Varga says without in-home care, she’d also be forced into a nursing home.

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to in-home care would mean about $500-million dollars in savings. Brown’s budget cuts include Medi-Cal, state universities and the CalWORKS welfare-to-work program — about $12.5 billion total. He also hopes to raise $12 billion, largely from extending tax increases.

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