Cuts Could Hit Autism Programs


UJA-Federation of New York officials and those at some of the agencies it funds are bracing for city and state budget cuts to programs that help young people with autism make the transition into adulthood.

In New York City alone, 25 agencies that serve the autistic community — eight of which are affiliated with UJA-Federation — are in jeopardy of losing $1.5 million in funding from the “One Out of 150” initiative,

According to Anita Altman, deputy managing director of UJA-Federation’s department of government and external affairs. (The name “One Out of 150” comes from a 2007 Centers for Disease Control report that showed one in 150 American children have an autism disorder).

“It’s not necessarily a critique of the autism program — it’s, ‘hey guys, we’re really in a jam,” Altman said, noting that the autism program competes with many other budgetary items aimed at children, such as summer youth employment and after-school programs.

Despite continued funding from UJA-Federation donors and a grant of $1.5 million from the J.E. and Z.B. Butler Foundation for autism and other mental health disabilities, the loss of $1.5 million from the city would be detrimental, Altman says.

Meanwhile, Elise Hahn-Felix, who directs the Compass Project at the Long Island-based Jewish Child Care Association, a program for young adults with autism, is also fearing the budget axe. Her program receives money from the state’s Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

While the Compass Project receives UJA-Federation funding as well as a grant from Neshamot Women’s group in Westchester, a loss of state funding would mean a severe reduction in programming.

“The budget is frozen, so even grants that have been awarded are in jeopardy,” said Hahn-Felix. “We don’t know where the cuts are going to come from in the state and, going forward, what’s going to be available. I don’t want to lose my staff; I’ve invested a lot in training them and making them part of the team. In this field there’s so much turnover, and it takes so long for a client to get to know you and for you to get to know them.”

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