CEO Rob Honan tells us some disabled people they serve could lose those services altogether.
Others could see them reduced, which would force them the make some difficult choices. “You may have to have a choice of getting out of bed, getting back into bed, taking a bath only once or twice a week,” Honan said. “So, these are very real considerations. Not only that, they impact the health of an individual.”
We met such an individual, Jaime Shelby, who suffers from cerebral policy and was injured in a serious traffic accident. Independent Living Specialist Jay Claywell says Jaime’s muscles are contracting because she spends so much time in a wheelchair. Clawell says if Jaime cuts back on bathing, she faces the possibility of other, more serious health problems, like infection and skin breakdown.
“If she’s not able to keep herself personally,hygienically, as clean as she wants to, then she’s dealing with potentially more daunting medical conditions, which she shouldn’t have to,” Claywell said.
Honan said a lot of MERIL’s participants might have to be institutionalized, rather than cared for in their homes, if the funding cuts being proposed are finally approved. He says that could ultimately prove more expensive.
“Keeping them at home, keeping their mental health in check, keeping their physical health in check is very important for us,” He said. “If they go without services their mental health is affected, as well as their physical health.”
“In the long run that could be more costly to the state.”
Claywell said losing MERIL services would dramatically raise the personal costs for participants like Jaime Shelby. “They allow her to remain in her home, as opposed to being hospitalized, as opposed to being institutionalized, or put into a rehab facility, and if you take that away from her, you basically destroy her existence as she knows it now,” he said.
“We have to be forward thinking,” he said. “And we have to see what the impact would be.”
“That’s why I asked my friend Jaime to be here so that visually she can make an impact, and with her story she can make an impact, and you can see, if you’re paying attention, whose lives you’re impacting.”
Honan acknowledges that state lawmakers are faced with some critical budget realities. “Every year we have to fight,” Honan said. “Unfortunately, the legislators go after folks that sometimes can’t get to Jefferson City and argue their position. So we try to work with the folks down there to represent them, and also take people down there as much as we can,” he said.
Honan is hoping people will contact their local legislators, who he said are for the most part sympathetic, and are looking at ways to try to fund the program. The budget is always tight here in Missouri every year, he said, and this year there is additional uncertainty with the potential loss of federal block grants.
“It’s been a very challenging year,” Honan said.
The current House and Senate budget proposals are scheduled to go to conference committee next week.