The network, a nonprofit designated as the federally mandated organization to advance and protect the civil rights of adults and children with disabilities, includes the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, The Arc of Pennsylvania, PA Mental Health Consumers Association, Vision for EQuality, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southwestern PA, Speaking for Ourselves, and the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“For years, DPW (Department of Public Works) has consistently asked for and received woefully inadequate appropriations to support services for Pennsylvanians with disabilities that are mandated under the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act of 1966,” Disability Rights Network CEO Mark Murphy said at a news conference Wednesday when the lawsuit was revealed.
Additionally, the “ill-advised attempt to balance Pennsylvania’s budget on the backs of people with mental illness and disabilities is a recipe for social and economic disaster,” said Debbie Plotnick, director of Advocacy for the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
However, the $27.1 billion budget unveiled last month was simply a proposal that has yet to be negotiated with lawmakers, said Corbett spokeswoman Kelli Roberts.
"There is still a long way to go," Roberts said.
Still, Alexander said DPW is seeking to keep the integrity of welfare intact.
"Our goal is to develop a budget that still protects the core programs in welfare. Efficiency and program integrity and the good name of welfare is what we're trying to keep with this budget," he said.
Telephone and email messages left at the offices of Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Democratic House Majority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, were not returned.
“While we support the administration’s desire to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in welfare programs, it is important to separate critical services needed by persons with disabilities from welfare fraud,” said Maureen Cronin, executive director of The Arc of Pennsylvania. “There are almost 16,000 Pennsylvanians with intellectual and developmental disabilities on waiting lists for services, more than 3,000 of whom are in need of emergency services. We know of no families that are ‘gaming’ the system — they are simply desperate for help.”
The lawsuit, a copy of which can be read by clicking here, seeks an injunction to require Corbett and Alexander to comply with the state obligations under the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act.