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Disability community needs state to step up on funding

The Commonwealth has seen a rise in coronavirus infections, with some weeks showing twice the number of positive diagnoses as the week before. This surge will be devastating for the population within the disability community, which faces increased risk.

This is about life and death, as we learned from the story of Michael Hickson, a disabled Black man from Texas. His COVID-19 illness moved quickly to hospitalization, the questionable cessation of health care, and then death. This was all despite his family advocating for his care.

For people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental or intellectual disabilities, the impact of the coronavirus has been devastating, not just in lives lost but in the 1,410 individuals who were tested positive living in the more than 2,000 managed homes across the Commonwealth. And those are the numbers we know.


The governor’s budget recommendation for fiscal 2021 comes short of addressing the COVID-19-related needs of homes, day services, and families. A $14 million shortfall in day services would cause the closure of many needed day programs across the state.

Private community homes have received no additional funds since July. Then there are the individual caregivers, both family and nonfamily, who wait for more assistance.

There are 7,640 people in homes served by the private system that lack adequate revenue to meet the COVID-19 challenge, while the day system serving more than 18,000 people would lose the funding equivalent needed for more than 600 individuals.

Day support is needed. Lives are at stake. We need to make sure resources are there for the safety net.

Leo Sarkissian

Executive director

The Arc of Massachusetts