Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget recommends eliminating state funding for 70 programs. One of those is a volunteer program that serves individuals with disabilities.
The ARC of Kentucky has volunteer chapters across the state that provide educational and community support for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, including autism and Down Syndrome.
Funding for ARC was already eliminated in July 2017, halfway through the last two-year state budget cycle. The group could no longer afford its paid executive director, so Sherri Brothers began in August 2017 as interim executive director – as a full-time volunteer.
“My main concern is for the individuals. They’re where my heart is. I want them to have the best chance at a good life,” said Brothers. “They need opportunities for employment and programs, just like any other person in the state of Kentucky.”
Brothers said ARC offers assistance that helps individuals with disabilities make the most of their skills and talents by helping them navigate educational programs.
“We do help kids and families in Kentucky schools with their IEP and 504 plans to get the best education that they possibly can,” said Brothers. Those are requirements to make sure students with disabilities get individualized plans for their education.
Brothers said Kentucky has more than 800,000 individuals with disabilities.
She said she’s requesting a meeting with the governor and writing to legislators to let them know why ARC is important, in an effort to get funding restored in the upcoming state budget.
Funding proposed to be cut is $125,000 per year for the two-year budget cycle. Those state funds are used for the costs of two conferences during the year.
One is the ‘Self-Determination Leadership Academy’ that provides training for people with disabilities, members of their families, and professionals who work with them. Conference topics include assistive technology and employment.
The other annual event is a best practices conference for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Workshop topics include education, employment, health and safety.
This year’s best practices conference ‘Together We Grow’ will be held as planned March 8 and 9 at the Crowne Plaza Louisville Airport.
However, Brothers said future conferences are in doubt due to the proposed elimination of state funding for ARC.