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Boost in State Funding Assures Continuation of Home for Handicapped

July 17, 1988|MARY LOU FULTON | Times Staff Writer

WHITTIER — Thanks to a favorable ruling from the state, the future is starting to look secure for an unusual home that provides temporary care for the severely handicapped.

The parents' group that operates Newcomb House has been appealing for more than a year for more state funding, and this month, the Department of Developmental Services agreed. Newcomb House will receive about $50,000 more annually, sweeping away a financial cloud that has threatened to close the facility twice in the last year.

"We're so pleased that we've been able to persuade the state to see what an important service we provide," said Steven Boyer, executive director of the Whittier Area Parents Assn. for the Developmentally Handicapped, which operates Newcomb House. "And it's such a relief not to have to be constantly worrying about money."

For seven years, the parents' group has sponsored temporary care for children and adults with Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, profound retardation and other handicaps that require 24-hour care. Without the service, life would be a lot harder for the 50 to 60 families in Whittier, Santa Fe Springs and Pico Rivera who use the home, Boyer said.

The state's decision was a relief for Lydia Del Rio, a widow whose 19-year-old son, Dean, requires constant attention because of his severe retardation, heart condition and other ailments.

"It's wonderful news for me as a parent," she said. "The home gives me the respite I need, and it gives Dean a place to go and socialize with other people."

The six-bed Newcomb House, staffed round the clock, is believed to be the only place in the state where parents can take their children in case of emergency or if the family needs a break from the obligations of constant care, Boyer and state officials said.

However, the service that the home offers is so unusual that it did not fit into any state funding category, Boyer said. A more typical facility would offer permanent residential care for the developmentally disabled, with one or two beds available for temporary, or respite, care.

To receive state money, Newcomb House had been inappropriately placed in a funding category in which the state would pay $45 a day for each client, Boyer said. That rate was not enough to break even and each year, parents would make up the deficit--about $60,000--by sponsoring fund-raisers ranging from bake sales to casino nights.

Last fall and again this spring, money problems led Boyer to announce that the house would close, and both times an anonymous donor from Century City gave the parents' group enough money to keep the house open.

Meanwhile, the Department of Developmental Services was restructuring the funding process for residential care facilities. Newcomb House was to have received more money once the new process took effect Jan. 1.

But last month, the state allowed Newcomb House to become part of the new funding scheme six months early, and the change is expected to bring the facility about $115,000 a year.

Parents will still have to raise about $10,000 a year, "but that's nothing compared to what we had been doing," Boyer said.

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