Weekly Feature



2012-10-18 / Front Page

Party lines erased at Southeast Works event

Public officials, candidates discuss special needs
by JOLENE ZANGHI
Lancaster/Depew Editor


Kathy Hochul speaks during Candidates Hour held Friday at Southeast Works in Depew. The event featured more than 25 candidates for Congress, State Senate, Assembly and County Legislature who spoke about issues concerning their constituencies, including the needs of the developmentally disabled. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Kathy Hochul speaks during Candidates Hour held Friday at Southeast Works in Depew. The event featured more than 25 candidates for Congress, State Senate, Assembly and County Legislature who spoke about issues concerning their constituencies, including the needs of the developmentally disabled. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com In a room filled with Democrats, Republicans and independents during election season, one would think the tension would be overwhelming.

But that wasn’t the case during Candidates Hour held Friday at Southeast Works in Depew.

More than 25 candidates for Congress, State Senate, Assembly and the County Legislature gathered at the agency to address issues concerning their constituents, including the special needs of the developmentally disabled.

Southeast Works, a nonprofit organization that serves more than 500 adults with developmental disabilities, has hosted the event for the last 16 years.

Each of the public officials was allowed three minutes to speak candidly. Several shared personal stories about friends and relatives who live with intellectual or developmental disabilities; all agreed that the needs of those individuals was a top priority.

State Sen. Patrick Gallivan said there were a few important issues that needed to be acknowledged at the state and federal level, including taking a proactive approach when addressing the needs of adults living with autism.

Gallivan said pieces of legislation such as the People First Act of 2012, were key to enhancing the quality of life for those who rely on health care services provided by the state.

“It is a critical piece of legislation,” he said. “It will examine needs of individuals and services across the state to ensure that invaluable resources are used to provide the appropriate level of community-based care.”

The state’s current financial situation has had an impact on community housing for individuals with disabilities; it has been five years since the state has authorized housing developments, according to Southeast Works. Many of the candidates agreed that this was unacceptable.

Democrat candidate Mark Amodeo, running against state Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Tonawanda, said that support of nonprofit groups such as Southeast Works was also significant in ensuring that service organizations are obtaining the resources they need to get the job done.

“We need to be working with the people out there to get feedback to see what works and what doesn’t,” Amodeo said. “I know funding is a huge problem on the state and federal level, but we need to be talking to the people on the ground to see how we can make the system better.”

State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Clarence, said that while there have been great strides in caring for the younger generation of those who have medical, cognitive and behavioral challenges, more attention has to paid to the middle-aged demographic.

He added that some of the community members he had spoken with were concerned with the care their loved ones would receive as the years go by.

“They are getting older, their kids are getting older and there is really no direction from the state,” he said.

While each candidate spent his or her brief time at the podium promising strong advocacy in Albany and asking for voter support, they agreed that ensuring that disabled citizens are covered in terms of health care and housing is paramount.

“This is one of those issues that shows no boundaries,” said David DiPietro, who is running for the Assembly in the 147th District. “This isn’t political. It comes from the heart.”

email: jolenez@beenews.com

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