April 12, 2011; Source: Fox10TV (WALA) | One of the “minority” groups that gets the least attention in the nonprofit sector, not to mention the philanthropic sector, is the disabled. The hard work of many nonprofits that serve the developmentally disabled often gets overlooked. Increasingly the state budget cuts around the nation fall heavily on programs that assist the developmentally disabled.

In Florida, newly elected governor Rick Scott has made big statewide cuts that have reverberated down to (often small) nonprofits. In Okaloosa County, Horizons has served some 800 clients with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism since 1992. Now, due to budget cuts, Horizons is eliminating 27 staff slots and discontinuing services to 33 clients.

As the Horizons executive director put it, “We are often times the only support system that a person has, and to discontinue services, it’s unconscionable but we don’t have a choice.” One hearing-impaired client, Tony Hill, said through a signer, “My home, it’s gone.” The executive director hit the nail on the head when she said, “To me, it's the moral obligation of the government to take care of the elderly, children, and people with disabilities, and I think they've failed that task.”

Maybe Scott will see the light and the legislature will come up with new money to help Horizons and other similar nonprofits continue their programs. But there is a sense in these rolling state budget cuts that the biggest losers are frequently the most vulnerable, often powerless populations.—Rick Cohen