Budget hearing testimony: Tears, pain, difficult choices for parents…

Feb. 3, 2012 8:09 a.m. - Updated: 8:11 a.m.

Several who have testified this morning at the public hearing on the state budget have fought back tears as they spoke, describing the pain of family members who went without services. Lori Olsen of St. Anthony told how her brother, unable to get appropriate treatment for his mental illness, committed suicide. “Dan's actions were of someone crying out for help, not someone wanting to commit suicide,” she said, her voice breaking.

Katherine Hansen, representing the Consortium of Idahoans with Disabilities, asked JFAC to restore two specific cuts made under last year's HB 260 that trimmed Medicaid benefits and services. “Idaho is now facing a budget surplus,” she said. “You have many options of where to allocate those dollars.” She said $1.8 million in state funds restored to Medicaid could pay for reversing cuts to job-coaching services to adults with disabilities that are forcing many to cut back their hours or lose their jobs, and for reversing a cut that forces people with both mental illness and development disabilities to choose just one of those conditions to treat.

Rebekah Casey of Hayden said, “My husband and I have adopted two children through the foster care system. My daughter has been receiving PSR services for almost two years now.” The youngster struggles, she said. “Without the PSR services … we would not have been able to maintain her in our home.” Over the summer, Casey said, her daughter suffered a crisis, and was unable to obtain additional psycho-social rehabilitation services due to the new 5-hour cap on such services for children. “Instead we were forced to consider medicating our 4-year-old daughter, when therapy services would have been sufficient,” Casey told lawmakers. In addition, she said, “I have been forced to choose which one of my son's issues I need to treat. It's a difficult choice for a parent to make - how do you decide which one is more important?”

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