• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

State budget cuts threaten Bear River Activity Center’s programs for disabled

December 9th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Kara Kawakami

Shortly before Ming’s first birthday, Elaine Lu became concerned for her baby boy. “I suspected that his motor milestones were going the opposite way,” Lu, a physical therapist based out of Salt Lake City, said. “He was almost 2 before the neurologist said, ‘Yes, you’re right.’ The neurologist confirmed that Ming had disabilities. His motor milestones decreased and then his intellectual milestones followed afterwards.”

As he grew older, her son was hyperactive and very aggressive, particularly to his sister, Betty, Lu said. After only a short time on the state waiting list, Ming was admitted to a state program before his 11th birthday. Through this very structured program, Ming’s behavior changed. He is no longer destructive or hyperactive. He holds a part-time job, and is able to read and communicate, Lu said.

“Why not give [disabled] people an opportunity to reach as much as possible? They need care and people who actually care about them, and for them, I am very much an advocate for those with disabilities,” she said.

Bear River Activity and Skill Center (BRASC), located in Logan at 890 N. 800 East, is state funded and provides opportunities for Cache Valley individuals with disabilities. Many services are available, including a day program for adults, which includes training and maintaining skills, supported living services, supported employment services, respite services for children, youth, and adults with disabilities, and a summer recreation program for children and youth with disabilities.

Amy J. Hicken, a senior in special education at Utah State has worked at BRASC for over a year and a half. “BRASC provides a great service for people with disabilities to be part of the community, when most people would reject them and not think twice about not including them,” Hicken said. “A lot of people walk past it [BRASC] and don’t know what the building is, it’s really cool, what they provide,” she said.

BRASC offers transportation to participants, and the individuals are able to participate in many different experiences. There have been trips to the dinosaur park, Hogle Zoo, the movie theater, up Logan Canyon, and to the library. The participants also have access to exercise equipment, said Drake Rasmussen, program coordinator of BRASC.

With the downturn in the economy, a lot of funds from the state are being cut, so services provided for individuals are being cut, Hicken said.

After a 3.5 percent cut in July there may be more cuts coming, depending on the State Legislature. In accordance with this, some programs would have to be dropped, Rasmussen said.

The families of individuals being cared for are definitely worried. They are aware of the state budget, what could happen, and are concerned. If their son or daughter loses funding, it would result in a change of lifestyle, the parent or caretaker of the individual may have to quit work, or pay privately for BRASC services, Rasmussen said.

Many individuals are on a list for state funding, but the list has been stopped. Most of the BRASC participants are being state funded, but there are some that have to pay out of their own funds, Hicken said.

A few new people have joined the group this year, Rasmussen said, bringing BRASC numbers to about 32 participants. There are over 2,000 people on the state waiting list to receive funding, he said.

“Most of the participants enjoy coming to BRASC. They have their friends,” Rasmussen said, “The main thing to keep in mind is the importance of services like BRASC for people with disabilities and maintaining their services,” he said.

Alyssa Creighton, an aide in a Utah Valley special education classroom, strongly believes that there needs to be state funding for such programs. “Not all parents are able to financially support their children who have special needs. There are many more bills to pay.

“I work respite for several families. I get paid through state funding. Unfortunately, not many people want to do respite,” Creighton said. The pay is low, and the high demands and expectations of caring for a special needs child are demanding, she said.

BRASC also offers respite. “We take care of the people when their families are unable, or out of town, sometimes its overnight,” Hicken said. She cared for a BRASC participant this past weekend, even taking her to church, she said.

State funding is critical >>
“Families can’t afford to do this, and also it’s a much better situation, both for the children and the families than the state training school was, where they used to be put there in great big dormitories where their individual needs were not addressed, it’s a whole different situation,” Lu said.

In regards to seeking state funding, Lu says, “The families need to be proactive with the funding groups and with the State Legislature; they should not just be shelved, or put into almost an asylum situation. We need to advocate for them. I think that as far as personal care goes that we really need to keep these programs going and in the long run it’s less expensive than straight care as well as much more humanitarian. People involved get better care, and more consistent care,” she said.

“I really feel that we need, as a society, as a civilization that we need to take care of our young, our old, and our disabled,” Lu said. “I think that’s more important than how many fast airplanes we have, how many tall buildings we build, or if we fund the Olympics. Those are fun, let people enjoy them, but we can’t neglect society and as a whole. It’s a lot more important than waging wars,” she said.

Places like BRASC, which provide services for adults and children that have disabilities and offer respite care for families, as well as day programs for adults, are crucial to our society, Rasmussen said.

“These people are individuals; they have strengths and weakness like anyone else. They need to have the opportunity to have as much self esteem and self pride as possible, through programs that help them do that. They are people, they have emotions, just like anyone else, you may think that they don’t, but they do, they are just in different phases of development.” Lu said.


Tags: , , ,

  1. One Response to “State budget cuts threaten Bear River Activity Center’s programs for disabled”

  2. By Elaine on Dec 14, 2009

    Hi Kara;

    You did a great job! I am going to print this, and perhaps send it on to some other sites.

    Thanks for the opportunity to have my “say” about the needs of special people.


Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.