NM autism support programs lose funding | KOB 4
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NM autism support programs lose funding

Morgan Aguilar
June 20, 2017 06:16 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Fiscal year 2018 starts July 1, and several programs providing support for New Mexicans with autism are faced with being defunded.

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Tuesday morning, KOB confirmed Camp Rising Sun will no longer be funded by the Developmental Disabilities Supports Division (DDSD) at the New Mexico Department of Health.

Camp leaders say they’ll wait until this summer’s camp is over to decide what they’re going to do about next summer.

A program that supports children and adults with special needs in Sandoval and Bernalillo counties has also learned they won’t be getting any state money. April Spaulding started a Recreational Respite program at Abrazos Family Support Services nine years ago. The program takes people diagnosed with autism ages 4 through 21 out into the community for activities like bowling, swimming and horseback riding.

"Families get a break, they get respite, so they get that break from their caregiving duties and then the children get to go have fun and get their own break for about 3 hours once a week," said Spaulding.

On May 24, Spaulding got a letter from DDSD stating they had completely cut the contract for the Recreational Respite program.

"So $45,000 to support about 100 children a year with autism for these services is completely nixed from the contracts," Spaulding said.

She called the department and tried to find out whether they could cut their Regular Respite program instead.

"In rec, those kids develop, they grow, they're getting those life skills that all kids need and that children with autism tend to not get as equally in the community," Spaulding said.

When that failed, she tried to find other options for the families she works with.

"When I spoke with DDSD I asked, ‘can I refer my clients to somebody? Is there something out there, that's fine if you want to cut our services, but they still need the support,’ and they stated ‘no,’ everyone is being cut who are providing the autism services," said Spaulding.

The letter sent to Abrazos from DDSD said "Should additional funding become available during FY18, DDSD will re-evaluate whether a contract can be issued."

The Department of Health points the finger at the legislature. Spokesman Paul Rhien said lawmakers cut the department’s budget by $5 million. He says they’ll continue to provide safety net services including their Developmental Disabilities (DD) Waiver and State General Fund services for people with autism and other disabilities. He says they’ll also keep early intervention services through their partnership with UNM’s Center for Development and Disability.

Spaulding says she got the impression programs aimed at one population are most likely to be cut.

"The families are obviously very devastated," Spaulding said.  

The Centers for Disease Control says one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism.

"They're going to school with your children, they're at your church, they're at your workplace they're your neighbors," Spaulding said. "So by cutting the supports to these individuals you're affecting the general population all around. It doesn't benefit anyone."

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Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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