BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Hundreds of people converged on the State Capitol to rally and advocate on behalf of those living with disabilities on the annual Disability Rights Day in Louisiana.
Similar rallies are held every year, but advocates and groups said this year is particularly important because of the state's historic budget mess and how the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has fallen in the balance of drastic cuts.
Disability rights advocates are urging lawmakers to consider the affects such cuts not only have on families across the state but, in the end, on the state's budget.
Advocates said the proposed cuts to DHH would impact individual and family support services, regional service centers across the state and the thousands of people waiting for waivers. Right now, 13,000 people are waiting on waivers and some at the top of the list have been waiting for 11 years.
"They hold on as long as they can until they reach the end of their rope and then often times they seek institutional placement," said Sandee Winchell, executive director of Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council. "That's a really touch decision for them to make but sometimes they have no choice, but to do that, and that costs whole lot more than home and community based services."
Advocates are pushing to restore cuts to services for people with disabilities. The proposed cuts to DHH alone related to disability services total more than $13 million.
Gov. John Bel Edwards told the group he's committed to the work that's needed to protect the all important disabilities services.