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Committee hears testimony on proposed Medicaid cuts

February 07, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -Emotions ran high on Monday when the House Appropriations committee heard testimony concerning Gov. Matt Blunt's proposed budget cuts.

Witnesses testified that a cut in Medicaid would dramatically impact the lives of the mentally and physically disabled in Missouri.

"You are dropping the people that need you the most," William Millner said.

Millner said he had to have his leg amputated six and 3/8 inches below the knee after a 53 foot fall down the side of a bluff. Although he walked away from the fall, he said an infection lead to the amputation.

Millner said he is not currently working because of seizure causing nerve damage. He said nerve damage to his eye will probably ultimately cause him to lose it. With the proposed budget cuts, he said he will be getting an eye patch instead of a prosthetic.

Rita Hunter, Jasper County Public Administrator, said that health care is already being stretched thin.

Hunter said psychiatric patients are being placed in general rooms. According to Hunter, with mirrors that can be broken and power cords, these rooms are clearly not for individuals with mental disabilities.

Hunter said that right now there are only 24 beds available for 21 counties.

The proposed closing of Bellfontaine Hablitation Center in St. Louis, a home for the mentally disabled was also debated.

"What we have here is a death sentence for some of the residents who surely won't make it," said Micky Slawson, president of the Parents Association at Bellefontaine.

Slawson, whose daughter has resides at Bellefontaine, said that residents have more freedom at the facility than they could ever hope to have in the community.

"We're just at you're mercy, and we're begging that this can be changed," said Slawson.

Betty Call, vice president of the Parents Association at Bellefontaine commented on the support for Tsumani disaster victims, pleading for the same support concenrning those with disabilities.

"We would deeply appreciate your support for the most vulnerable in Missouri and save them from disaster," she said.

Gene Morgan, president of the Kansas City Community Center, which provides detox for alcohol abusers and a 30-day residential treatment, questioned the motives of Blunt.

He said that he feared the budget cuts were politically motivated, only to keep promises.

"That is so mind and bone-numbingly sad," he said.

Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Jasper County), a member of the committee hearing testimoney explained that this is not the case.

"The governor inherited a very serious problem. The state has lived well beyond its means," he said.

Stevenson said that three years ago, the budget was a billion dollars out of balance and two years ago was 600 million. Although the problem is improving, a 300 million dollar deficit still remains.

"He (Blunt) had to make some extremely difficult decisions just weeks into his administration," Stevenson said.

Stevenson said that their are areas that need to be cut in the budget, listing as an example three department directors in the Department of Agriculture where it wasn't clear what they were directors of.

"Very realistic programs like Autism and First Steps we are working very hard to restore," he said.

Emma Babcock, a self advocate and Certified Personal Care Attendant suffering form bipolar disorder and a learning disease, expressed dismay at the thought of these cuts.

"From what I am seeing and hearing with this new government, I don't know what is going to happen," she said.

"(We are going to) ask Mr. Blunt to listen to us be blunt," she said.