Work, Inc. of Quincy, which provides training, support and job placement for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and mental illness, has lost $100,000 from the state Office of Disabilities and Community Services.
Geralyn Hughes is devastated that she’s losing the job she loves on Wednesday. It’s no ordinary layoff for Hughes, 45, who has a learning disability. She represents the face of a unique group of jobless adults grappling with a shaky economy – people with developmental and intellectual disabilities or mental illness whose jobs rely on state funding.
The funding that supported Hughes’ job at Work, Inc. in Quincy was slashed in Gov. Deval Patrick’s round of budget cuts last month.
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission lost $1.1 million for employment assistance for adults across the state with severe disabilities.
Locally, Work, Inc., which provides training, support and job placement for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and mental illness, directly lost $100,000 from the state Office of Disabilities and Community Services.
A job support program for adults with mental illness – called Service Employment Education, or SEE – also was ended when the Department of Mental Health lost $3.7 million for adult community services.
Cyndi Roy, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration and Finance, said making $1 billion in state cuts while protecting local aid to cities and towns led to tough decisions.
“We came up with a big number, and we then went to the individual agencies to determine how those cuts would be distributed,” she said.
For Hughes, who lives in Avon with her mother, who is retired, these cuts mean losing a place to go every day.
“I’d rather be making money like everyone else,” she said this week. “I don’t want to depend on anyone.”
The Arc of Massachusetts, an advocacy group for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities with offices across the state, opposes the $1.1 million in cuts to employment assistance.
“More than half of the people served by this program are living at home with family and are not going to have anywhere to go,” said Josh Komyerov, Arc’s director of government affairs. “It will have a domino affect on other family members, who may need to leave jobs to be with them.”
According to Arc, 200 of the disabled adults facing unemployment live at home with families who may not have an immediate solution for taking care of them.
Anne and George Coffey of Whitman have decided to pay out of their own pockets for their son to continue his work program.
James Coffey, 25, who is developmentally delayed and has a seizure disorder, requires a full-time work coach, which made finding a job for him difficult, George Coffey said.
“We’re not well-off, the economy has hit us pretty hard,” he said, “but (paying for James’ job) is not even up for discussion.”
The Coffeys estimate they will pay a few hundred dollars a month.
James Coffey, who does janitorial and landscape work through Arc’s regional office in Brockton, beams with pride when he brings home his weekly paycheck, his father said.
“It’s just great for his ego,” George Coffey said, “and that’s the saddest part of this whole thing. Not that it will cost the family money, but the self-esteem that some of these folks will lose.”
Not everyone affected has run out of options, though they now have fewer. About 75 of Hughes’ colleagues at Work, Inc. are now stuck in on-site job training programs. They are ready for a job placement in the community, but they will stay in training until funding is restored.
Betsy Baumgartner, 43, of Weymouth is among those with stalled job tracks. Betsy, who is developmentally delayed, assembled soup packages recently in a training workshop at Work, Inc., but with prior work experience she is capable of much more.
In addition to adults with learning disabilities, the budget cuts hit hard at vocational support services for adults with severe mental illness.
An estimated 2,000 adults statewide have lost training services and job coaches through the elimination of 22 Service Employment Education programs across the state, said James Cawley, spokesman for Work, Inc.
“It took us by surprise because the (SEE) program had its highest placement rate in 2007,” Cawley said. “It’s a travesty.”
The news hit hard for Quincy native Charles Maguire, 59, who got a job as a recreation assistant at the Weymouth Health Care Center through a job coach at Work, Inc. that he speaks to regularly.
“I need his support,” Maguire said. “It’s sort of like dropping me off a cliff.”
The Patriot Ledger
A cut in employment assistance from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission for adults with a severe disability will result in:
360 people with developmental or intellectual disabilities will no longer receive employment assistance
200 of those losing employment assistance live at home with families
$3.7 million cut for adult community services from the Department of Mental Health, which eliminates the Service Employment Education program
2,000-plus adults with mental illness will lose support services in 22 SEE programs statewide
$100,000 cut from community work program at Work, Inc. in Quincy
140 clients at Work, Inc. will now be without support services
75 clients at Work, Inc. will no longer get the job placements they had once expected
Sources: Governor’s office budget summary; Work, Inc. and the Arc of Massachusetts
'Turning 22' program safe from cuts
Day programs for young adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are recently out of school are not affected by the state budget cuts.
The $17.6 million budgeted for the transitional 'Turning 22' program, funds support work programs for young adults with special needs, who attend school until age 22. It also provides housing resources for those unable to live at home.
Jean Rogers, director of South Shore Industries in Weymouth, confirmed the program - one of the many that serves the South Shore - is in "good shape."
South Shore Industries, which offers onsite workshops, vocational training and job placement for 65 individuals, is actually growing, with 15 new people added in the past year, Rogers said.