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Howard Training Center abandons skills program to disabled adults
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The Ceres-based Howard Training Center is closing a skills training program for severely disabled adults at the end of the month due to revenue shortfalls.

The non-profit HTC has lost $192,000 in state funding and has no alternative but to close its oldest program, said Claudia Miller, executive director of HTC. Cutting the program eliminates approximately nine full-time employees and will terminate daily care and activities for 37 adults with disabilities.

The Skills Program provides daytime support and services for adults with developmental disabilities ranging from assistance with eating, dressing and hygiene and providing supervision and teaching daily living skills. Miller said the intent of the program is to help adults who live in care facilities or with family to "take better care of themselves, and do more for themselves."

"This is a tremendous loss for Howard Training Center," said Miller. "This program is at the heart of our organization's mission and our goal is to continue advocating with the Legislature for equitable funding for adults with disabilities."

The center's other programs will operate at full capacity, Miller said, including the Senior Meals, ARC Catering, Community Employment, Personal Achievement, Golden Opportunities, Production Unlimited, Transportation Services, Home At Last, and Community Integration programs. All existing employment contracts will not be affected by the change.

"This program is serving some of the most severely disabled adults," said Miller. "They are individuals that you celebrate an adult learning to drink a beverage through a straw. Many of the individuals are totally dependent on other people for movement, positioning, eating, dressing and toileting. And that's not necessarily a population everybody wants to work with."

Miller said the adults may be able to find similar services elsewhere, such as with Open Doors, Central Valley Training Center, Continum College, United Cerebral Palsy.

"There will be team meetings with Valley Mountain Regional Center, their care providers and families," said Miller, "to take a look at what the most appropriate program is going to be. Whether they go immediately or not will depend on if there's openings."

The Skills Program has been operating at deficits for years, said Miller, and was never fully funded by the state. "It's been running about a $145,000 to $200,000 deficit each year and we've been able to carry it through private donations and a little bit of extra money we've got. But we took a $190,000 cut in fees for services between October and February and we just don't have the where-with-all to continue this program."

HTC permanently eliminated two management positions but placed the seven remaining layed off workers on a call back list if other programs grow.

Altogether Howard Training Center serves about 300 disabled adults from throughout the county and employs 135-145 full- and part-time employees. Seventy-five percent of its funding comes from the state Department of Developmental Services, which is cutting $100 million from its budget this year.

"It's very scary. It's not a good situation. If Proposition 1D doesn't pass, they'll have another $260 to $280 million to cut out."

Since 1953 Howard Training Center has provided quality programs, services, and support for individuals with a wide range of abilities, from those with severe disabilities to those who are working independently in the community.