Johnson City

Program that helps disabled adults faces funding crisis

Dawn of Hope funds

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - A local organization that helps intellectually and developmentally disabled adults is facing a funding crisis and they're turning to local lawmakers for help.

For years, Elizabeth Sluder has been going to Dawn of Hope in Johnson City. She is one of 218 people that are part of the program that offers developmental, residential and vocational services to intellectually and developmentally disabled adults. "I think it's a good place to come to. We learn to work around here. We go bowling and to lots of different places," she said.

But some of the programs Sluder enjoys could be cut this year because of funding.

Executive Director Lee Chase said programs like Dawn of Hope haven't had a rate increase from the state since 2005. Since that time, personnel costs have increased 18 percent; electricity costs have gone up 56 percent; medical benefit premiums are up 82 percent and fuel costs have almost increased 100 percent in the past eight years.

Things could go from bad to worse this year. "We're very concerned this year because there is a 5.1 percent reduction proposed in our rates, but we're actually requesting a 5 percent increase," Chase said.

According to him, the situation is like overloading the lifeboats -- trying to take care of more people without more money. "The boat was designed for a specific number of people. We're not increasing the capacity," he said.

Dawn of Hope and some other surrounding programs are having a legislative forum Tuesday night at 6 p.m. with east Tennessee delegates to discuss the funding crisis.

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