Developmentally disabled advocates sue California

FRESNO, Calif.

Dozens of developmentally disabled adults in Fresno shouted their sentiments to state legislators Wednesday morning. They are not just services to be cut, they are people.

One client,Jose Barela, said, "If they cut us, if they cut the services, they're gonna take our lives away. Cuz this is all we know."

Barela spends most of his waking hours at this Northwest Fresno Arc California Center. He learns computer skills, cooking, and how to live independently. Barela said, "It means the world to me because this is all we know, they've become a part of our family. We spend more time with them than with our families."

Attorney Bill Mclaughlin, whose Fresno firm filed the lawsuit, says programs for the developmentally disabled have taken a hit for nearly a decade. He says if the state continues to cut, programs like the Arc will have to close.

"This program is extremely successful, and it saves the state money. Based on the state's own budget it costs about 350-thousand to treat them in an institution. In contrast, it's 17-thousand, on average, to treat individuals in the community," said Mclaughlin.

Mclaughlin says some of the Arc clients are even taxpayers -- like Brad Ennen, who now has a job.

Ennen describes his job, "We do the pantry project. We donate food, clothes to people that need it."

As many as 245,000 Californians now receive state funded services. Mclaughlin says California is in violation of its own law, The Lanterman Act, which guarantees the disabled the right to services to live as independently as possible.

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