A local non-profit caring for mentally disabled adults is being forced to cut a third of its workforce.
The Bridges organization in Brevard County is funded through donations, and state and federal dollars. Over the past few years it has seen its budget shrink.
Bridges provides long term care for veterans and developmentally disabled adults. Those with severe cases of autism, cerebral palsy, and forms of mental retardation, live in Bridges group homes most of their lives.
"That's often what I call the forgotten group of folks," said Bridges CEO David Cooke. "A lot of people will have known them through Special Ed classes in high school, but often kind of wonder ‘Well what happens when they leave school?' They'll often go to jobs, they'll come to live in our group homes, they'll live in our supported living situations, but they need the funding. They need to be able to live a long, fruitful and useful life."
Staff at Bridges helps them do that, teaching the clients about day-to-day tasks, even hooking them up with jobs. The organization is mostly funded through Medicaid, but with that program shrinking, and donations down with the economy, Bridges has been getting squeezed.
Because Bridges uses federal dollars, it must follow federal guidelines for staff-to-patient ratios. The same number of employees must be in the group homes at all times. But the budget cuts mean many of those staff members are being forced into part time positions with no benefits.
Staff member Margie Berrios told FOX 35, "People are sad because they have been here for so long, and it's a job, but they become part of your family."
Bridges is cutting about 30 percent of its full time work force, many who've been with the clients for decades.
Berrios worries that more part timers will mean higher turnover, and less quality care.
"These guys need us," she said. "And they need people who really care about them."
Bridges is currently working with other companies in Brevard county to place some of the staff in other part time jobs.
On the web: http://www.mybridges.org/