Rally against cuts for disabled

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Jody Chiarolanzio of Port St. Lucie is 34, disabled, and recently out on her own for the first time.

"I was nervous when I moved out. I didn't know if I was going to like it but it was a tremendous thing," laughed Chiarolanzio.

Jody and her roommate get a lot of help from caregiver Paula Brown.

"It's a tremendous struggle(for them)," said Brown. "They do remarkably well, I'm so proud of all these people."

The women are worried that cuts could force them back into a group home or institution.

Chiarolanzio was one of many people who spoke out Tuesday at the Arc of St. Lucie County to rally against Governor Rick Scott's actions last week.

The governor mandated a 15-percent roll back in payments to group homes and social workers after discovering the Agency for Persons with Disabilities is projected to run a 169-million dollar deficit.

Providers fear these cuts will leave an already vulnerable population in dire straits.

Cheryl King, the Executive Director of the Arc of St. Lucie County said, "We don't have any place to cut. We have to provide food for our people. We have to provide at least a minimum wage for our staff."

The Arc has six homes for 230 adults and provides programs to free the minds of those whose bodies can't be freed from the confines of a wheelchair.

Victoria Ryckman of Jensen Beach, whose daughter takes performing arts classes, had a challenge for the governor.

"Maybe he should put himself in a chair and tie his legs and hands up and let someone tell him he can't have these rights."

The situation has gotten so dire that the Arc is holding an emergency meeting Wednesday night to try and figure out what to do next. Caregivers also plan to rally Friday morning in Boynton Beach at a meeting of the Children's Services Council.

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