Lake Area residents rally at State Capitol Wednesday - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Area residents rally at State Capitol Wednesday

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(Source: LaCAN) (Source: LaCAN)
(Source: LaCAN) (Source: LaCAN)
(Source: Sen. Ronnie Johns) (Source: Sen. Ronnie Johns)
(Source: Sen. Ronnie Johns) (Source: Sen. Ronnie Johns)
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Hundreds of people with disabilities, their families, and advocates from across Louisiana rallied at the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

While hundreds attended the disability advocate's rally, a large group from the Lake Area was in the mix.

They say the goal was to speak with legislators on two main issues that deal with keeping funds available to help those with developmental disabilities.

It was a long bus ride back from the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon, but Susan Benoit says it was worth it.

"We got to meet our legislators and rally so it was a good day," said Benoit, a member with Region 5's Louisiana Citizens for Action Now.

Benoit says they brought about 50 people from SWLA to the disability advocates rally, joining hundreds there.

With legislators in session, Benoit says the goal was to speak to lawmakers about the budget, specifically, "For more services for people with developmental disabilities and their families and we also want the protection from cuts to those services."

Among those listening was Senator Ronnie Johns, who says they wanted support on two issues.

"One is a constitutional amendment. It's Senate Bill 355 by Senator Fred Mills that would stabilize the budget for a number of programs that are in healthcare and rehabilitation services," explained Sen. Johns over the phone.

The other issue deals with additional funding for waiver slots.

"Those are funds that make services available for those disabled people who need care at home," added Johns. 

The proposed budget includes an additional $10 million, which Johns says would create 200 new waiver slots. 

"The governor has put that into his executive budget. I'm very supportive of that," said Sen. Johns.

While it needs legislative approval, Johns believes it will be successful. But, if it's not, Benoit says it means, "People that have been waiting nine to 10 years will wait longer for services in their homes."

Rally attendees wore yellow shirts that read ‘A waiting list is not a service', reflecting their opinions on that.

At the rally, others chanted, "Home is where I want to be."

Fortunately, Benoit says lawmakers seem to support them.

"A lot of them told us they'll do what they can to help keep the money in the budget and try to protect it," said Benoit.

Sen. Johns says its good Governor Jindal supports the $10 million so they don't have to worry about a line-item veto later on.

But with legislators in session until June, it's a waiting game, because that's when they'll know for sure if those monies are indeed in the budget.

The rally was organized and supported through the collaborative efforts of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, LaCAN, Families Helping Families Regional Resource Centers, People First of Louisiana, The Arc of Louisiana, Advocacy Center, and Deaf Focus.

To view SB 355: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Bill.aspx?i=224544&p=true

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