Birch Self-Advocates Join Allies in Albany to Rally for Increased Investment

Birch Family Services, alongside hundreds of of self-advocates, families, Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), and other supporters, gathered in the War Room of the New York State Capitol on Monday, February 12th. Their mission: to implore Governor Hochul and the NYS legislature to prioritize increased investment in services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the dedicated workforce that supports them.

Despite the recent budget proposal from Governor Hochul, which included a 1.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for voluntary providers funded by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), many felt that this increase was insufficient to adequately address the rising costs of inflation. Furthermore, the proposed budget did not include a Direct Support Wage Enhancement, a crucial measure for ensuring fair compensation for essential frontline workers.

Under the rallying theme of “INVEST IN ME,” dozens of individuals served by Birch Family Services, along with staff members, bravely stepped forward to share their concerns and have their voices heard.

“I had a good time, I made friends and enjoyed myself,” said Brian, a self-advocate.

“I was happy I went there and to see different organizations and to advocate for an increase and to have my voice heard,” said Michelle Clarke, a staff member.

The rally served as a powerful reminder of the vital role that advocacy plays in shaping policies and securing essential resources for individuals with I/DD and the dedicated staff that supports them. As the fight for increased funding and recognition continues, Birch Family Services remains steadfast in their commitment to advocating for the rights and well-being of those they serve.

In the face of challenges, their message rings clear: every individual deserves the opportunity to thrive and be empowered, and every voice deserves to be heard.