These are the people who will be most obviously affected by the significant budget deficits in basic health and human services programs for this year and for the 1992-93 biennium. At press time; the projected deficit for he Texas Department of Human Services for 1991 was over $250 million, growing to over $1.5 billion for 1992-93. Without immediate action by the House and Senate to provide emergency appropriations for this fiscal year, the Department will be unable to continue providing any services for these most vulnerable Texans by this summer. The deficits stem from increases in use of health care and income assistance, as well as heightened federal requirements. These programs represent the most basic needs of our poorest families struggling to make ends meet. Those affected are primarily children children in AFDC families with incomes of less than $2,208 per year; children who need basic preventive health care; children with severe chronic medical conditions incurring expenses beyond what any low-tomiddle-income family can afford. Failure to fund these programs immediately has even broader ramifications. Other Texans who need services funded by the state will also be affected: disabled and senior citizens, children and adults needing protection from abuse, runaway and at-risk youth. Many of these people are being served because the 71st Legislature enacted a forwardthinking anti-crime package aimed at lowering crime rates though preventive programs such as Early Childhood Intervention, family violence shelters, and family planning. Since these services are not required by law and largely funded by state dollars, they are at great risk of being cut or eliminated if the Legislature fails to act quickly. A broad spectrum of groups will be working to assure that people’s basic needs receive first priority when allocating state funds. They will urge the 72nd Legislature to: Make resolution of the Texas Department of Human Services 1991 budget deficit the first order of business, in order to avoid severe cuts in services. Fully fund the DHS for the 1992-93 biennium to allow current services to continue. Provide morefunds for preventive services, saving the state money in the long run. Provide additional funding for community services for the disabled and elderly so that may of them can avoid more costly nursing-home care. All of these essential services must be funded, and one group of deserving citizens must not be pitted against another in the search for funds. When these kinds of basic needs are neglected, everyone pays and pays more by delaying. Texas must have productive, healthy citizens if the state is to prosper. It does little good to invest improvements in the state’s public schools if the health of the children who attend them \(and their LESLIE LANHAM Leslie Lanham is the associate director for the Children’s Defense Fund in Texas, and acting coordinator for People First!, a coalition of more than 50 statewide organizations which are urging the Legislature to address the basic needs of people first in the allocation of state funds. Deinstitutionalize People with Disabilities The passage of the Americans with Disabilities of Act of 1990 has brought attention to the rights and needs of almost 42 million Americans who had had no legal protections against discrimination in the private sector. Such protection is long overdue especially when you consider that more than 65 percent of the non-institutionalized disability population is unemployed, largely due to blatant discrimination and stereotyped attitudes about persons with disabilities. Disability has only recently and begrudgingly begun to be seen as a minority-rights struggle similar to the black and women’s struggle of the last few decades. In Texas, several disparate groups made up primarily of disabled people have, despite their often divergent interpretations of how best to attain the goal of independent living, been forced to work together, because of the low level of services available to everyone. The largest and most influential organization in Texas is the Association of Retarded to obtain support services for people with mental retardation and their families so that they are not forced into one of our state siding in institutions than any other state. Another disability-rights organization, United Cerebral Palsy, has led the fight for the concept of supported living, which uses public dollars and existing community supports to help people live in non-institutionalized settings. The nation’s largest cross-disability consumer organization is the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. Composed of more than 90 consumer and advocacy groups representing persons with physical, mental, and sensory disabilities, the coalition played a major role in the passage of the ADA. In the Legislature, CTD will seek development of community-based attendant services so that people will no longer be warehoused in institutions. It will also push state agencies to aggressively implement the Americans with Disabilities Act. A newer participant in Texas disability advocacy is ADAPT, whose style has been described as “street theater.” Using the tactics of non-violent civil disobedience, ADAPT scored a victory in their first battle, the fight for accessible public transportation. At the Legislature, ADAPT will take on the nursing home lobby, which has a financial incentive to institutionalize Texans, many of whom could be served more humanely \(and BOB KAFKA Bob Kafka is an organizer with ADAPT of Texas. DANNA BYROM Reggie James Repel the Assault on Products Liability Laws Products liability is the area of law which enables consumers to be compensated for harm caused by dangerous products. The law was developed because traditional tort law rarely, if ever, resulted in a manufacturer being held liable for the injuries its products caused. Consumers Union and other publicinterest organizations worked hard to defeat corporate-backed products-liability bills in Texas during the last legislative session, and preventing the passage of laws that would weaken consumer protection from dangerous products is near the top of our agenda again. Manufacturers, particularly of products like cigarettes and pharmaceuticals, are waging an all-out war to roll back products liability law to the time when businesses were practically immune from lawsuits relating to their products. Their proposed legislation, drafted by a Washington, D.C. law firm that represents tobacco and pharmaceutical manufacturers, would add so much time, cost, and complication to a product lawsuit that winning a legitimate claim would be practically impossible. Federal and state oversight of product safety are already inadequate for many prod THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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