Final state budget establishes New York’s FIRST state-wide autism training program for law enforcement and first responders
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara announced that a proposal he authored to establish the first statewide training program for law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders to help with interactions involving individuals with autism spectrum and related disorders was passed as part of this year’s final state budget.
“With about 1 in 68 children born with autism each year in the United States and more than 3.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder it is essential that our first responders have the proper training,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara, who serves as Chair of the State Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders. “Individuals with autism like my son Michael often struggle with communicating, making eye contact, and responding to simple questions, even if it’s asking for their name. Across the country we have seen how routine encounters with law enforcement can escalate simply because they are misunderstood.”
The final state budget included $250,000 to fund the initiative in all parts of the state within the next 90 days. The program will be designed to help bring attention to areas that need specialized training so that officers are better prepared when responding to those with Autism Spectrum and related disorders.
“Whether it’s helping a family find a missing child or responding to an adult with autism whose behavior may be misunderstood, recognizing the signs of autism and knowing how to react is important,” Santabarbara said. “This training is a valuable resource to those serving in law enforcement and after years of working on this initiative, I’m so very pleased to finally see it become a reality here in New York.”
Final State Budget Continues State Investment in Aging Infrastructure, Local Roads, Bridges
The state budget also continued the state’s investment in local infrastructure, roads and bridges through the $2.5 billion commitment made in the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act last year and the Consolidated
Highway Improvement Program (also known as CHIPs). Local municipalities like Schenectady and Amsterdam in Assemblyman Santabarbara’s district rely on this funding to maintain and repair local roads and bridges.
New York’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, in its second year now, was a commitment of $2.5 billion over five years. The final state budget also included $438 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, with funds going to communities in Santabarbara’s district. To help with damage caused to local roads during this year’s harsh winter, the final state budget also includes an additional $65 million in Extreme Winter Recovery funds to help with emergency repairs needed to roads like State Route 67, Church Street, in the City of Amsterdam.
“Across the state we are still facing the challenge of aging infrastructure, especially in smaller communities and in rural areas like ours,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. “As a civil engineer, I know smart investments like this can help us get ahead of the problems — to look out for our roads, bridges and water mains and prevent problems from happening in the first place.”
Santabarbara noted that when local governments are forced to be reactive rather than proactive, it costs everyone more.
“We saw it with the recent land slide in the City of Schenectady and now with the critical repairs needed to State Route 67, Church Street, in the City of Amsterdam,” Santabarbara added. “This funding will help communities like Amsterdam build safer, more reliable roads that are important to ensuring public safety and quality of life for local residents.”
“Reliable roads and well-maintained bridges are vital to economic development and our way of life here in upstate New York. They generate jobs and support employment, we travel to work and bring our kids school on local roads, our local businesses rely on them and they bring people to our communities,” Santabarbara said. “This continued investment is critical to the success of our upstate communities.”
As a civil engineer Santabarbara played a key role in crafting the infrastructure proposal. Last year $10 million was dedicated for Santabarbara’s Emergency Water Infrastructure Repair program, an initiative that he created following emergency repairs needed to the sewer system in the City of Amsterdam in 2016. The program makes more immediate funds available specifically for emergency infrastructure repairs and will continue to be funded into this year. The fund has been used on several other occasions in the City of Amsterdam since it first became available.
Final State Budget Supports New York’s Disabled Veteran Population
Assemblyman Santabarbara has been at the forefront of pushing for more state aid to support New York Veterans and their families. Santabarbara, who served in the US Army Reserve, advocated a ‘HOMES FOR HEROS’ program that was included in the final state budget. The program helps disabled veterans live independently. Through HOMES FOR HEROES, grant funding is provided to disabled veterans to assist them in retrofitting their homes to accommodate accessibility, safety and comfort.
The program was funded in the final state budget from $19.6 million in settlement funds from the Attorney General’s Office.
New York State is proudly home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country, with over 900,000 veterans residing in the Empire State.
“Far too many veterans are left with the physical challenges brought on by their service protecting our country and the freedoms we hold so dear,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara, who served in the US Army Reserve from 1990-1998 and is now on the State Assembly’s Veterans Committee. “We also have an aging population of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans who are in need of wheelchair ramps and other physical changes to their homes.” Santabarbara added. “While no one can ever say thank you enough, this initiative will offer our support to help New York’s veteran population live independently and in their own communities.”