Thursday, June 26, 2008

Meeting to focus on proposed state cuts

Having your street slurried is a minor hassle for all residents. When Alisa Rosillo found out her Concord block was to be resurfaced today her mind immediately started racing.

Instead of dropping her disabled and wheelchair-bound son in front of her house, Leo's school bus would have to drop the 9-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, one-and-a-half blocks away. In order to pick him up, she would have to wheel her other son Max, a 7-year-old on life support, down to the street corner too.

But then how could she get both children back home?

"How can I push two wheelchairs at one time?" Rosillo asked.

It's Wednesday in the Rosillo household and Alisa has her daily challenge to ponder.

This one ends perfectly. After initially securing help from the construction foreman to help wheel a son back with her, the slurry crew agrees to alter their work schedule to allow Leo's bus to pick him up and drop him off at the Rosillo's front door.

Most of the challenges don't reach such happy conclusions and with looming state budget cuts to critical disabled children's services, the Rosillos are anticipating even more challenges.

The governor's May revise identified a $17.2 billion shortfall. He would address the deficit through $9 billion in cuts and $8 billion in new revenue, mostly through borrowing against the lottery, according to the governor's proposal.

With the final state budget due by the end of the month, Contra Costa AdvertisementCounty could lose more than $380 million annually in direct state and federal assistance, according to a local impact report by Health Access California. Many of those cuts would affect the disabled and those most vulnerable, leading a group of elected officials, healthcare leaders and others to host a town hall meeting in Walnut Creek tonight to discuss options.

The state plans on cutting $22 million from in-home support services, affecting 1,500 Contra Costa disabled and senior residents. More than 6,500 caregivers would have their hourly wages cut from $12 to $8.60 an hour, according to the report. California Children's Services would also receive a 25 percent reduction, jeopardizing occupational and physical therapy for about 3,200 disabled Contra Costa children.

On Wednesday, after solving her son's bus dilemma, Rosillo took a rare opportunity to run some much-needed errands. She stopped at the grocery store and bank, picked up prescriptions from the hospital, chlorine for the pool and her daughter's dance video.

A day nurse visits her house three days a week, enabling her to handle such chores. Seven days a week, a support service nurse spends the night at the Rosillo house. Max, who has down syndrome and a C-1 spinal cord injury, must have someone constantly monitoring his airway and body positioning. Leo, who has seizures in the form of apnea that turn him blue for 20 seconds at a time, also needs careful monitoring.

This summer, a Children's Services instructor will teach Leo how to use his own mechanical wheelchair.

"My whole world is contingent upon somebody else," says a frustrated and formerly independent Rosillo. "I'd hoped I could do it on my own, but it's not possible.

"You sit here and don't know how it will broadside you," the mother says of the impending cuts. "It's not very fun."

Without the help, Rosillo says she'd have to become a full-time caregiver for her children, one of whom needs help 24 hours a day. With a husband who works full-time, she can't imagine the scenario. In the worst case, she worries her kids would be taken from her.

The Rosillos aren't alone. If the governor's proposal passes, the county, already lean from cutting $52 million earlier this year, would see more cuts: $79 million to education, $71 million to transit, $183 million to health and nursing home care, and $24 million to income support to people below poverty.

"(The cuts) will have very large impacts, particularly at the level of service. People will be affected in a very real way," said state Assemblymember Mark DeSaulnier, D-Martinez, who will attend tonight's town hall. "If we make these cuts, people will not just drop off the face of the planet ... they'll wind up in other areas, like in prison or in the emergency room."

A call to the governor's office was not returned Wednesday.

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