Budget cuts leave developmentally disabled in the cold

By July 31, 2015

USA (MNN) — Jesus tells His disciples in the book of Matthew that, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”

Now, “the least of these” need your help more than ever.

Last April, Michigan launched its Healthy Michigan Plan, which expanded the income limit for those eligible for Medicaid. It shifted state coverage expenses from Michigan to the federal government, saving the state millions of dollars. But thinking Medicaid would cover the difference, the state cut funding by more than half to services for the developmentally disabled.

Now, it’s taking a toll.

“The budget cuts that are coming now down from the state of Michigan from the top down to the different counties are just horrendous,” says Sally Gallagher with The King’s Table Ministries, an organization in Grand Rapids, Mich. that connects the disabled community to the local church. “It’s causing a huge problem. It’s already displacing some of this people group because they’re coming in, and they’re cutting their services.

“The other thing that’s a huge loss is also the day programming and the skill building that they go to during the day. Normally it’s 5 days a week or 4 days a week for this people group, but they’re coming in and cutting it right in half, where they’re only able to go out in the community one day or maybe two days a week.”

One organization that’s especially bearing the brunt of the cuts is Network180. This mental health organization in West Michigan serves more than 50,000 individuals annually. In April, it was forced to make several cuts to its staff and services, citing a $5-million “funding shortfall.”

“We will need to begin to immediately reduce services to all populations we serve,” said Scott Gilman, Network180 executive director, according to an April 7 article by the Grand Rapids Business Journal. “This is extremely challenging, because the individuals we serve have severe disabilities and/or mental illness.”

Now more than ever, Michigan’s developmentally disabled need your help. It’s also a perfect time for the body of Christ to step in. Christians can make an eternal difference in the lives of everyone involved in the disabled community–and not just in Michigan.

“It’s just a really special thing to be a part of and watch when a church takes hold of one or two group homes in their community,” Gallagher says. “And they can engage them then by inviting them back into their church, so that they have a place to go and worship and be a part of the family of God.

“When the church comes in, the spiritual aspect of this is when they invite the people from the home back into the church, they can’t go anywhere alone….” Gallagher says. “So with them will come their caregivers, their families may take them, siblings. It may be a neighbor. It’s the best opportunity for evangelism there is.”

The King’s Table isn’t active in the political realm, but it’s being a voice for those without one. Can you come alongside this organization during this desperate time? Gallagher invites you to contact her, and she will help you find ways to get involved in the developmentally disabled community. Or, follow this link to provide financial resources.

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