Advocates for developmentally disabled lobby for funding

By Dennis J. Carroll: The New Mexican

Advocates and families of the developmentally disabled, in the midst of a Roundhouse lobbying push for funding vital to the well-being of those in their care, hope they aren’t just being “niced to death” by state lawmakers.

“In the last three days we’ve heard nothing but a willingness to help,” said parent David Gifford on Friday. Gifford is the father of April Gifford, 46, who has been in and out of group homes much of her life.

Gifford was among about 200 family members, the disabled and their advocates who descended on the Roundhouse last week for their yearly Freedom/Disability Day at the state Capitol.

Gifford and other advocates pointed to public encouragement from Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, a supportive House resolution and a bill in the Senate that would move $6.8 million to cover more services for the developmentally disabled.

“We were not encouraged,” said Richard Klotz, executive director of Mosaic, an Omaha-based care provider that operates 10 group homes for the developmentally disabled in the Santa Fe, Taos and other parts of northwest New Mexico.

Mosaic’s services include job coaching and employment assistance as well as supporting people who wish to live in their homes, develop functional and social skills and be involved in their communities. Mosaic also provides respite care to relieve caregivers and transportation.

Klotz was speaking of a January meeting with Department of Health Director Alfredo Vigil and Mikki Rogers, director of developmental disabilities services for the department.

Klotz said the Omaha-based provider will be forced to abandon its Santa Fe region group homes, which care for about 30 disabled persons and its “day hab” program, which offer a variety of recreational and educational services to 55 people, if the company does not receive an additional $1.4 million from the state to carry it through for the next two years.

Klotz said the high cost of operations — including the city of Santa Fe’s nearly $10-an-hour minimum wage — have strained Mosaic’s abilities since it took over from ResCare after the state canceled in its agreement with the firm in 2006.

Mosaic currently receives $5 million a year to operate the group homes and day services services in its northeast region, Klotz said. The company also runs similar homes and provides services in Farmington and Grants, but they are not threatened with cutbacks or closures.

Mosaic employs 118 people in its northeast region, who are provided medical insurance at no cost to the workers, Klotz said.

“There is no recognition (from the state) that the cost of living is higher here,” Klotz said.

He said Vigil’s and Rogers’ response was that money is tight all over, but that they would get back to them later this month.

Vigil announced Tuesday that other providers are ready to provide care to people who are currently receiving services through Mosaic. He said that Mosaic has notified the department that it will end most of its services in northeastern New Mexico effective June 30,

The northeast region covers Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Taos, Los Alamos, San Miguel, Colfax, Union and Harding counties.

A statement released by Vigil said that Mosaic asked the department to amend its provider agreement to allow it to provide only family living services, up to 24-hour support for one person in a family setting, to 34 people in its northeast region.

Vigil said Mosaic is required to continue serving people until they have been transferred to a new provider.

Parent Gifford said it’s been a life-long battle to ensure the safety and health of his daughter, who endures major trauma every time she is forced to move from one group home to another.