Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Barber Institute could help more autistic adults with the proposed budget

By Vaseline May31,2024


The Barber National Institute employs approximately 150 people as direct support professionals, trained staff who spend their days in the community or in homes with the center’s adult clients.

There are so many people age 21 and older in the Erie area with autism or intellectual disabilities that the demand for services far exceeds the supply of these professionals, said Maureen Barber-Casey, the institute’s executive vice president.

“We could use at least 50 more,” Barber-Casey said. “If we had the funding to increase wages (which currently start at about $15 an hour), we could recruit more workers.”

Aid could be coming soon as part of Pennsylvania’s 2024-2025 state budget. The proposed budget calls for an investment of $483 million in state and federal funds in home- and community-based service providers like the institute.

These providers could then hire more direct support professionals to help eliminate long waitlists for services across the state.

To draw attention to the proposed budget and encourage state lawmakers to pass it, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Valerie Arkoosh visited the institute Thursday.

“We need to end the emergency waiting list for adults,” Arkoosh said, referring to a waiting list of families in urgent need of help for an adult with an intellectual disability. “Gov. Josh Shapiro’s 2024-2025 budget will provide the money to make this happen.”

The demand is especially acute for adult clients because young people get help through public schools, Barber-Carey said.

In addition, adult clients usually have older parents who sometimes struggle to provide their child with the support they did in previous years.

The proposed budget also calls for an investment of $78 million in federal and state funds so that an additional 1,500 Pennsylvanians can receive services.

The proposed budget must still be approved by the House and Senate

Shapiro’s proposed budget must still be approved by the state House and Senate. Four Erie-area state legislators visited the institute with Arkoosh and all spoke in favor of the funding, including two Republicans.

“This is actually something that the governor and I agree on,” said Sen. Dan Laughlin of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist.

“It’s about priorities,” said state Rep. Jake Banta of LeBoeuf Township, R-4th Dist. “This is a no-brainer.”

Contact David Bruce at [email protected]. Follow him on X @ETNBruce.

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