ANOTHER OPINION: Human Services Are Getting Stripped

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BY STATE SEN. LeANNA WASHINGTON & SEN.-ELECT SEAN WILEY/ The Senate Democratic Policy Committee met in Erie to conduct a roundtable discussion about the Dept. of Public Welfare’s delivery of human services. At the meeting, we joined Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, as well as Democratic Policy Committee Chair State Sen. Lisa Boscola to hear testimony from intellectually and physically disabled members of the community and their advocates, as well as human-services professionals.

The discussions brought to light many important issues facing Pennsylvania’s human-services delivery system. We were especially touched by one young woman from Edinboro, who told us her paperwork is so excessive and invasive, she feels as though Pennsylvania’s prison population is treated with more dignity and respect.

This young woman and the thousands of those who rely on human services value their independence, and so should we. Pennsylvania continues to face financial hardships, but we have to be willing to make room in our budget to provide services that can help the physically and intellectually disabled live productive lives.

Additionally, we heard one of the biggest issues with human-services providers is when they do not receive payment, vital services cannot be delivered to those who need them the most.

While we understand Gov. Tom Corbett values streamlining government, paring down the 38 human-services financial-management agencies to one Massachusetts-based company will only slow down the rate that human-services reimbursements are delivered. When these changes are added to the potential sale of the Pennsylvania Lottery to a United Kingdom-based firm, it paints a startling picture for Pennsylvania jobs. We could see further job loss by outsourcing major business to other states and countries, and a loss of quality and availability of an already faltering human services program.

This past week, we wrote a letter to Gov. Corbett imploring him to do the right thing and examine ways in which we can responsibly and adequately deliver human services, while preserving the dignity, privacy, and independence of Pennsylvania’s disabled citizens.

We were elected to represent all of our constituents, regardless of their level of independence. Without proper consideration of the obstacles and ramifications that the changes to human services have caused, we stand to do great harm to a vibrant and hardworking community.

(Washington represents part of Philadelphia and Montgomery Cos. In the 2011-2012 legislative session, she served as Minority Chair of the Senate Aging &Youth Committee. Wiley will represent most of Erie Co.)

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