Northeast Times

SPIN welcomes state reps to legislative breakfast

State law re­quires Pennsylvania to pass its an­nu­al budget by June 30, and Spe­cial People In North­east Inc. picked a good time to host a le­gis­lat­ive break­fast.

SPIN wel­comed state Reps. Tom Murt, Larry Curry, Den­nis O’Bri­en, Kev­in Boyle and Vanessa Brown to its Nor­com Com­munity Cen­ter last week to press its case for ad­equate fund­ing for the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Pub­lic Wel­fare.

In March, Gov. Tom Corbett an­nounced a pro­posed $27.3 bil­lion budget. Some of the loudest cries of be­ing short­changed came from ad­voc­ates for pub­lic edu­ca­tion.

When the Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives passed a budget plan on May 24, mem­bers re­stored some funds to pub­lic edu­ca­tion, but to make up the dif­fer­ence, they de­creased the amount of money Corbett pro­posed for the pub­lic wel­fare de­part­ment. The Pennsylvania Sen­ate has yet to pass a budget, and the folks at SPIN hope the House ver­sion does not be­come law.

“It will ab­so­lutely hurt people,” said Kathy Brown McHale, SPIN’s new CEO.

The hu­man ser­vices or­gan­iz­a­tion em­ploys more than 1,100 people and cares for 3,500-plus chil­dren and adults with dis­ab­il­it­ies.

In Pennsylvania, the hu­man ser­vices in­dustry provides sup­port to more than 46,000 in­di­vidu­als, many of whom once lived in state-run in­sti­tu­tions.

The budget passed the House by a vote of 109-92. Re­pub­lic­ans con­ten­ded that they craf­ted a re­spons­ible budget in tough eco­nom­ic times and noted that there were no tax in­creases. As for Demo­crat­ic howls, they poin­ted out that the minor­ity party did not of­fer a budget or even amend­ments of their own.

The vote was largely along party lines, though O’Bri­en and fel­low Re­pub­lic­an Rep. John Taylor were op­posed to the plan. Op­pon­ents cited some re­cent rev­en­ue that came to the state’s cof­fers.

“There’s five-hun­dred-thou­sand dol­lars on the table,” said O’Bri­en, who called the budget “shal­low” said “ir­re­spons­ible.”

SPIN, which star­ted as a camp in 1971, also has a new ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or in Judy Dotz­man. She said much of the agency’s suc­cess could be at­trib­uted to the em­ploy­ees, most of whom love the work they do.

“Our work force is second to none,” she said.

Dotz­man poin­ted to Megan Met­zger, who was re­cently named the state’s Dir­ect Sup­port Pro­fes­sion­al of the Year by the Amer­ic­an Net­work of Com­munity Op­tions and Re­sources. Met­zger, who dir­ects a SPIN home for three wo­men on Avon Street in Somer­ton, was in Bal­timore on Monday and Tues­day to re­ceive her award at AN­COR’s con­fer­ence.

Joanne Le­onard, a SPIN trust­ee, said her son Danny, 48, has been liv­ing in one of the agency’s group homes in Bustleton for 13 years and is do­ing well. She cred­its the em­ploy­ees.

“His staff is like fam­ily,” she said. “We have a great com­mu­nic­a­tion. Thank God for SPIN.”

One SPIN cli­ent, LaMark Hall, ad­dressed the crowd along­side com­munity af­fairs man­ager Katie Clancy. Hall, a self-ad­voc­ate who re­ceives weekly sup­port from the agency, lives in an apart­ment with his cat, T.C. He spoke of his work at the Tasty Bak­ing Co. and how he helps neigh­bors with land­scap­ing and shov­el­ing snow.

Brown McHale, the CEO, be­lieves Hall is a good ex­ample of a cli­ent who is thriv­ing. She ex­plained that oth­er SPIN cli­ents are more vul­ner­able and need life­time sup­port to lead pro­duct­ive, mean­ing­ful, en­gaged lives. She fears a loss of $1.7 mil­lion if the House budget is ad­op­ted. Her re­com­mend­a­tions are to spend the newly real­ized $506 mil­lion and to tax de­vel­op­ment of the Mar­cel­lus Shale form­a­tion, which con­tains nat­ur­al gas re­serves.

In re­cent months, Brown McHale and Dotz­man have taken over for the hus­band-and-wife team of Dav­id and Trina Losinno, who headed the agency for four dec­ades be­fore their re­tire­ment. The two are new to their po­s­i­tions, but they’re SPIN vet­er­ans and were long ago iden­ti­fied by the Losin­nos — who at­ten­ded the break­fast — as the right people to take their place.

O’Bri­en, who is run­ning for an at-large City Coun­cil seat, be­lieves the state has a re­spons­ib­il­ity to ad­equately fund pro­grams for chil­dren and adults with dis­ab­il­it­ies. He urged the crowd to act.

“If you want to do something to hon­or Dave and Trina Losinno,” he said, “I think what we should do is fight against these cuts.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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