Father campaigns to protect Medicaid special-needs funding

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Parents of children with special needs more than likely are keeping close watch on state lawmakers in Baton Rouge.

Louisiana's special legislative session gets under way at 4 p.m. Monday.

With it comes a lot of concern about the state's spending priorities.

And those fears have inspired an ArkLaTex father to fight to preserve the amount of funding for special-needs programs.

"The people of Louisiana shouldn't have to be here year after year pleading for quality, affordable education or begging that life-saving wages and critical Medicaid services are preserved," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said June 7, 2016.

His remarks came at the start of a special session. Yet almost two full years later, those budget cut fears remain just as real today.

Just ask retired orthopedic Dr. Clint McAlister.

His son Charles is one of the many clients at Evergreen Life Services, a private nonprofit that helps people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities.

"Evergreen has given him a life," McAlister said of his son.

McAlister, who has served on the Evergreen Life Services board, said the agency is still stuck at 2007 Medicaid funding rates with additional cuts in 2009 and 2012.

"So they're now trying to maintain quality services on a 2007 budget minus 5.5 percent."

McAlister said it's not just Evergreen, but also similar agencies like Holy Angels that also rely on such Medicaid funding.

That's why he's reached out to several state lawmakers about the issue.

District 37 Sen. Barrow Peacock confirmed he spoke with McAlister about the funding.

But Peacock said he is unable to really speak clearly about the issue, at least not until he gets a good look at the state budget.

Sen. Ryan Gatti, who identified himself as a supporter of Evergreen Ministries, texted: "As the father of a special-needs child that passed away in July, I cannot imagine any legislator voting to cut the budget of our weakest citizens."

That special legislative session must end by no later than March 7. Then the regular legislative session is set to get underway at noon March 12.

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