Disabled people in Louisiana on a long waiting list for home care will have to wait longer.
That's after budget cutting from Governor Bobby Jindal. He slashed nearly four million dollars in funding. That has the disabled needing care -- and their advocates -- fuming.
Among them is Virginia Amie. She's stricken by polio and other maladies and is basically bed-ridden. She gets care at home eight hours a day, paid for by Medicaid. But she says she needs 24-hour care. And she's been on a waiting list for ten years.
"I pray every day, 'Let it happen. Let it happen.' But it doesn't," Amie says.
If her daytime caregiver isn't there when she has an accident in bed with her colostomy bag or catheter, she just has to tough it out since she has no family here to help.
"It's terrible. And I don't like it one bit," she says.
Amie and other disabled people across Louisiana may have gotten the help they need, so they can stay at home and not go to nursing centers. But this year's budget deal allowed Governor Jindal to strike $40 million in unspecified cuts, including from healthcare. And nearly $4 million in added money for in home care for the disabled was gone.
Chrystal Morton, who runs the Shreveport company that helps Amie and about a hundred other disabled clients, says Jindal should have cut elsewhere.
"These aren't people that are trying to buck the system, or get something for nothing," says the director of Family Care Services, Inc. "These are people that need our help."
Morton says the cuts also endanger businesses like hers that are threatened by lower Medicaid reimbursements.
State Representative Henry Burns of Bossier Parish, a strong advocate for the disabled, says Louisiana may need to depend on more than just public money.
"What we need is a better game plan to approach it and see if maybe we can even make popularize getting private funds, donations, corporations, whatever," Burns says.
The Republican envisions a possible check-off on state income taxes to help more disabled people get in-home care, and calm their emotions.
"I wish Bobby Jindal could be in my shoes for one day," Virginia Amie says from the bed of her apartment.
The controversy has spilled over into social media with Gov. Jindal countering some Twitter bombs. Fellow Republican Dan Claitor, a state senator from Baton Rouge, Tweeted: "Wow?? Governor sticks it to the disabled community."
Jindal answered critics with his own Tweet on Tuesday, saying: "More people than ever before in Louisiana are now being served by programs for people with developmental disabilities. " Jindal included a link to his letter to newspaper editors on the subject.
In that letter, Jindal said that no disabled people in Louisiana currently receiving services paid for by the state are being cut. He said his administration has added more than 28-hundred waivers for the disabled. And he re-iterated that the 20-thousand disabled people currently being served is the most ever in Louisiana.
Jindal added that services for the disabled will continue to expand as the state budget allows.