Note updated info below
Fayette County Leaders Ax Funds For Kids' Autism
Maybe the Fayette County Commissioners did -- or maybe they did not -- realize the full impact of
their decision to terminate the shared ride transportation program through FACT county
transportation to all users, except those Medicaid recipients receiving chemotherapy or dialysis.
Maybe the commissioners did not realize that their decision to terminate the shared ride program
would create such a ripple effect that would also terminate transportation to a very worthwhile
therapeutic service for kids with Autism.
Kids with Autism look forward all year to the therapeutic day camp that runs part of the summer
for them. Truth be told, the therapeutic camp is the only substantial support for most kids with
Autism in the county.
While some parents have the resources and the job flexibility to transport their children to the
therapeutic camp, in all likelihood, the number will be too few to enable the mental health provider
to operate the therapeutic camp.
The therapeutic camp, Camp Journey, run by Uniontown based Family Behavioral Resources, is a
proven, beneficial opportunity for kids with Autism to increase their social, safety and
interpersonal skills. It also offers them a rare opportunity to interact with other kids over the
Given that the county raised taxes to create what was supposed to be a surplus of funds, and given
that the county leaders seem to want to spend more of that surplus than we would like them to
spend, it seems that the county leaders just don't give a rat's ass about the kids.
Sure, we saw Commissioner Zapotosky cry last year when the Cleveland Clinic and Highlands
Hospital opened their specialized school, paid for by two local school district funds. He was that
genuinely moved that the school opened. Our intent here by saying so is to commend him for that
sentiment and not ridicule him. But if your child with Autism wasn't one of the lucky 4 or 5 chosen
to attend school there, gee, we thought that we at least could count on the therapeutic camp to
help fill a void. Guess not!
Instead, there are consultants to pay to offer magical insight to the county on how to magically
manage a $56K account of prisoners' personal money and, of course, out of county solicitors to hire
to magically correct problems that we never knew existed in the county solicitor's office.
Over the coming months, we're sure, too, that new jobs will be created that were not in the
annual budget -- i.e., someone will have to be hired with full benefits to magically manage that
$56K account for the jailed prisoners, since a county controller, a commissioner with a big
business background and a warden can't seem to be able or willing to train existing prison staff to
add and subtract correctly.
Certainly, we do not minimize the problems that April's funding cut will pose for adults who used
FACT's shared ride program for medical appointments. We know that many of them will not get to
their appointments and some will be taken advantage of by others and pay ridiculous fees for
jitney rides to their doctors, as they once did before FACT's program started years ago.
It is a shame, however, that the county leaders nixed the transportation for the kids with Autism
a few times each week for part of the summer to Camp Journey, when the county raised taxes
excessively and seems to have already made plans to make a surplus magically disappear.
If only Autism disappeared just as magically, there would be no issue.
19 Mar12 Editor's Note:
First today, we heard around 2 PM from Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink about the funds
becoming available for the transportation to and from the autism therapeutic camp. An hour later,
Commissioner Vince Zapotosky started emailing back several times. We thank them both for
replying and showing interest. We offer up apologies to Zapotosky for not being able to get back
again to him sooner to relay Zimmerlink's statement. He wouldn't have had to waste time rallying
the troups away in a training seminar that already seem to have their ducks lined up on this issue. jt
Zimmerlink: "My understanding is that DPW has informed counties that "funding has been
identified" (their words) for the MATP which takes care of the autism transportation for the
summer program... We will know more later as per DPW. Also, while the commissioners passed a
Resolution in January 2012 to have only chemo and dialysis riders covered under the Shared Ride,
we have since been informed that funding has been "identified" and accodingly, tomorrow at our
commissioners meeting, we will be rescinding that Resolution. "
Zapotosky, 3:11 PM: "I agree with you (with email we sent earlier to these 2 commissioners whose
email addresses are public knowledge) 1000% and am making call right now to see what we can do.
Can I reach you via phone I am not email friendly. Take care and enjoy this weather. God bless."
3:18 PM: "The Director and other management staff are out of office at conference requested
she call me via my cell. I will keep you posted as to my inquiry and will do my best and I am sure
other CC's will as well. As you stated it is a shame and this would be great for the kids and also
give parent(s) much needed respite."
3:23 PM: "Just spoke with Lori Groover Smith she says last year they did provide transport to
around 100 kids she is sending me email to provide details. I will forward as soon as I get it.
Thanks for the email. I use to work with special needs children in a transitional federal program
as I stated I agree we need to help in anyway we can."
3:36 PM, he forwarded his email to Smith to us: "Lori, First email for your review. Again thanks
and lets get this done. VZ"